David v Goliath battle

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014
Willy Dairy owner Keun Mook Yook
DANIEL TOBIN
NO PUSHOVER: Willy Dairy owner Keun Mook Yook started a petition to save his Halswell dairy of 13 years, after Foodstuffs left him out of its planned new shopping centre complex.

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Thousands of Christchurch residents have signed a petition to save their popular suburban dairy from being forced out by a supermarket giant.

About 2650 people signed the "We want Willy Dairy in new Halswell Shopping Centre" petition, after Foodstuffs confirmed it would not offer the dairy a space in its rebuilt shopping complex.

Owner Keun Mook Yook, also known as William, has run the dairy from the centre for 13 years.

"Lots of people want [me] to stay and lots of people are angry about the whole thing," Yook said.

Foodstuffs said the New World supermarket next door would "fill the void".

The shopping complex was damaged in Canterbury's earthquakes and it was deemed uneconomical to repair by owners Foodstuffs and its insurers. Foodstuffs offered leaseholders space in its rebuilt centre, but told Yook there would be no room for his shop.

A letter from Foodstuffs property manager Clayton Young, dated May 13, 2013, stated the company did "not have the space available" for a dairy as the neighbouring New World supermarket would "fill this void".

"Foodstuffs' other shopping malls and many similar malls do not have dairies as they are more regularly seen . . . where there is no supermarket presence," Young wrote.

Another letter, dated January, said the company's demolition plans would be under way soon and Yook's shop would have to be vacant by the end of this month.

Work to rebuild the complex is due to start in two to three weeks and will take 15 to 18 months to complete.

"It is unfair with other tenants that they have all been offered space in the redeveloped shopping centre without any issues at all. [My] dairy appears to have been singled out for exclusion."

Halswell resident Lyn McGill said Willy Dairy was a "pivotal" part of the community and could not be replaced by a supermarket.

"It's totally unfair, not just to William, but to the community. It's a village - we don't need another St Martins or whatever they've got out at Eastgate. We don't need all that, we want the dairy."

Local MPs Amy Adams and Megan Woods and city councillor Jimmy Chen wrote to Foodstuffs urging it to reconsider its decision, but had no success.

Woods said the many residents found it hard to understand Foodstuffs' decision when the dairy and the supermarket had co-existed for more than 12 years.

"Mr Yook is well respected and supported within the local Halswell community and would be a sad loss."

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Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue told The Press there was "no room" to accommodate Yook's business in the new centre.

She said Foodstuffs would help him find alternative premises.

- The Press

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