''A terrible experience.'' That's how a Kawerau shop manager has described being robbed three times in the past month - including once where a knife was held to his neck. Rotorua Daily Post journalist Katee Shanks speaks to the manager about the traumatising attacks and gets reaction from the community.
Galway Street Dairy and Takeaway manager Charanpreet Singh says he feared for his life during each attack.
When the Kawerau store Singh manages was robbed the first of the three times, he said the robbers weren't as threatening and were armed only with a hammer. The last two times they came with faces covered and brandishing hammers and knives.
Singh said the robbers smashed the top of the freezer before leaving with drinks and meat during the first robbery. In the second robbery on September 15, a group of five put a knife to Singh's neck before leaving with cigarettes and cash.
On Sunday night, another masked group entered the store.
"One had a knife and the other's came toward me like they were going to hit me with hammers," Singh said.
"They told me to open the till and all the money was taken as well as cigarettes."
Singh was alone each time but said while the fear affected him it wouldn't stop him coming to work.
"It has been terrible scary for me, a terrible experience," he said.
Singh has managed the store for 18 months and said he has been surprised by the escalation in violence.
After the second robbery, Kawerau Police helped him get a fog alarm installed.
But Singh said he did not get the chance to use it on Sunday because the robbers approached him immediately upon entering the shop.
"We have put in other security measures and are now shutting the shop at 6.30pm instead of 8.30pm."
People in Kawerau who shop at the Galway Street dairy have been quick to express their anger.
Social media posts described the dairy owner and staff as community-minded people who are always willing to help out.
One of the store's workers said people were now offering support.
"We've had customers come in here and offer to sit outside the shop while we are open," the worker, who did not want to be named, said.
"Others have left their number and told us to call should we have any problems.
"We have also had people view the security footage of the robberies and provide us with names of who they think is responsible. We have passed this information on to the police.
"A lot of our customers are really angry this has happened and keeps happening and they worry the owner will shut the doors if it becomes too much."
It is a sentiment Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell shares.
"The reality is, this dairy [and other isolated dairies] may close rather than risk someone getting hurt or killed," Campbell said. "And that would be a real shame for the people in those parts of the town.
"As far as I'm concerned it's only a matter of time before someone gets badly hurt.
"Evidently, these people [robbers] are pretty violent – arming themselves with hammers and the like before they enter the shop."
Campbell also said when methamphetamine or synthetic cannabis was added to the robbery mix, things had the potential to get violent a lot quicker than if they were not.
"That's what worries me, if these people are fried [and I'm not saying they were this time] they are liable to cause some real harm. If somebody decided to fight back, there would be real problems."
Campbell urged anyone with any information about the robberies to contact the police.
Kawerau Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick said officers had spent Tuesday working with staff at the Galway Seett, River Road and Ballantrae dairies.
"These are our most isolated dairies. We went through some preventative stuff with them," Fenwick said. "We have also have extra patrols around the dairies at night."
He said Kawerau business owners should be able to go about their daily business without fear of becoming a victim of crime.
"People work long hours and they should be able to do this in a safe environment."
"As police, we're sick of this happening in Kawerau and will be doing what we can to catch the people responsible."
Police were following strong lines of inquiry.