Empty site a waste of space

MATTHEW DALLAS - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 27/03/2014

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The notion of Feilding waiting up to or over a decade for a supermarket it doesn't even need would be comical if it were not for the great waste of space in the middle of town.

As the Standard reported this week, Foodstuffs has no short-term intentions to develop the fenced-off site at the corner of Aorangi and Gladstone streets, though last April the co-operative claimed the new 4500-square-metre Pak'n Save would be built by the beginning of this year.

Its property development general manager Angela Bull now tells us the site is in a land bank and could remain there for a decade or more before Foodstuffs decides Feilding's population can support the store.

The statement puzzled Manawatu District Mayor Margaret Kouvelis who, like most of us, would have expected Foodstuffs to do such homework before now.

Given there hasn't been a mass exodus from Feilding since the land was bought or the 2014 opening announced, it would seem other factors are in play.

Foodstuffs is entitled to keep commercially-sensitive cards close to its chest, but it is disappointing it had to be poked and prodded by the media into letting the township know the venture they thought was "coming soon" was actually on the backburner.

Supermarkets are astute at emphasising community-mindedness once the doors are open; sponsoring kids' sport, grassroots schemes, accommodating charities. On this occasion Foodstuffs had a responsibility to keep the Feilding community in mind in respect to its empty lot and future interests, but failed to do so.

The only consolation is the value Foodstuffs appears to be placing on consumer demand for the store. For the past decade it and Progressive Enterprises have seemed more focused on market share and one-upmanship.

The turf war has seen prime sites purchased left, right and centre, either in spitting distance of a rival store or to prevent the other from buying and building on.

The chains would likely claim the duopoly provides healthy competition that is to the benefit of shoppers. But it has also led to a proliferation of outlets.

Once it would have been considered advantageous to live within a five-minute drive of a supermarket. These days you can expect to drive past three of them.

Such is the case in Feilding. Some residents would welcome Pak'n Save, a larger, modern discount outlet to replace Write Price, but their grocery needs are being met and will for some years. Their tolerance for a sizeable chunk of dirt blighting their town is another matter.

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- Manawatu Standard

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