Bollards have hit the big time for all the wrong reasons, but the businesses behind them are busier than ever. Alex Casey speaks to Big Bollard.
The bollard business is in absolute bedlam. "Oh yeah, without a doubt, it's just gone crazy," says Peter Goodwin, CEO of Fel Group, which owns Bollards Online in Auckland. Cameron Woods of Bollards NZ in Christchurch echoes a similar experience of an industry-wide bollard boom. "We are very, very busy – got a big backlog of orders at the moment, mostly headed to Auckland." Over at Astrolift, which stocks a wide range of both cast-in bollards and bolt-down bollards, marketing manager Josh McKenty reports a nearly 500% increase in searches for "bollard" in the last month.
If you've been keeping up with the news, perhaps this will come as no surprise. Over the last few weeks, bollards have been all over the headlines in Aotearoa due to the ongoing issue of ram-raid attacks on retailers and petrol stations, now totalling 15-20 per week. "Bollards no match for thieves who targeted Mobil service station" (NZ Herald). "Demand for bollards skyrocket amid rise in ram raids" (One News). "David Walliams smashes car into bollard after warning Simon Cowell to watch his speed" (Daily Mail, not ram raid-related but still shocking).
On Monday, Grant Robertson said there would be an announcement next week regarding government funding for local businesses to help protect themselves against ram raids. The main prevention measure they will be considering? Bollards. Comparing this approach to the government's funding of fog cannon installations to target robberies in 2017, reported at the time as being "very, very effective", Robertson said "the government can carry part of the cost – potentially quite a large part of the cost – of the installation".
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Prior to this month, you may have never thought that hard about bollards before. But for those in the business, bollards have always been top of mind. "The one city that I reckon has got the most bollards in New Zealand is probably Wellington," Goodwin from Bollards Online muses. "Every time I've been there, you see bollards everywhere. Well, I do." Other places you can guarantee a bollard spot? Outside every Rebel Sport and Warehouse Stationery. "Tap on them," he explains, "they are filled with concrete because those stores have been hit various times."
Although there is industry consensus that concrete-filled bollards installed within the ground (rather than bolted to a concrete plate on top) provide the maximum level of protection, Astrolift general manager Danny Blampied says that their most popular bollard remains the steel, bolt-down bollard. "The bolt-down install is the least disruptive and in most cases should act as a deterrent and bring the offending vehicle to a halt," he explains, adding that retail stores can also remove this kind of bollard to allow wheelchair access during opening hours.
It's not just your local retail stores that require the brawn of the bollard, either. Bollards can be found in parks, fuel stations, loading docks, shopping malls, fast food restaurants, airports and supermarket car parks. They can be plastic, they can be steel, they can be wood. At Christchurch airport, they can even be rugby players. Goodwin's most memorable bollard stopped an errant car that was out of control in a Countdown car park in Hobsonville in 2017. "This was only a 114mm diameter in-ground bollard," he explains. "They definitely do work."
- The Spinoff