Over barbecued bacon and eggs in buns, Bunnings staff, suppliers, contractors and consultants this morning celebrated the imminent start of construction of a new $42.5-million Arch Hill store.
They were joined by David Batten of the Arch Hill Residents Society who declared: "Bunnings is here and we feel it's imperative to have a good working relationship."
Auckland's most bitter battle against a big box retailer spanned three years and went to Environment Court mediation.
The well-organised, outspoken society poured about $90,000 into fight against the four-level store straddling Great North Rd, King St and Dean St, in the midst of well-established neighbourhood, dotted with small weatherboard houses and a mix of light commercial and retail activities including car dealerships.
But under a warm spring sun, just as the mist was burning off the CBD at 9am, about 50 breakfasted on the now-level site behind a green fence, with extensive views above the North Western Motorway to Mt Eden's summit.
Jacqui Coombes, Bunnings NZ general manager, today expressed optimism about the relationship with residents.
"We worked well with the neighbours. They have been very constructive," she said, also acknowledging opposition had been strong.
"We are really conscious that where we ended up is a happy place. We are going to be here long term and want to be part of the community, so we will make sure we will continue that.
"I can understand people have opinions but we need to take everyone's opinions into account. I think we ended up in a good place for all of us. We will end up with a beautiful looking store. It's been quite a long time — three years. But we had so much else going on," Coombes said, referring to rapid expansion elsewhere, including at New Lynn.
David Boersen, Bunnings property and store development manager, said 18 Bunnings staff had already worked at the nearby Newton Central School. New stairs were built, a new path laid, new garden shed was built and gardening was carried out.
"Bunnings will engage by doing projects, supplying labour and materials. It's not about the biggest project, it's about ongoing projects," Boersen said, referring to further more extensive community involvement and a project to erect picture frames for art work around the construction site.
Ebert Construction director Ron MacDonald said building would take 18 months.
Boersen said the site would be excavated down to 5m, then hundreds of piles would be sunk, some as far as 22m. A truck turning table and cafe are included in plans for the new store.
Boersen said demolition began in March and included removing asbestos from one building on the site.
Construction of Bunnings Arch Hill begins on Monday.