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Supermarket is the ‘meat in sandwich’

During the ongoing eight-year battle in Greytown over a resource consent that’s been applied for three times by Woolworths NZ, the FreshChoice supermarket has been caught in the middle.

Supermarket owner-operator Chris Ward has told the Times-Age he and his business are “getting skinned alive in the public arena”, despite having very little to do with decisions made by Woolworths NZ.

“It isn’t FreshChoice doing this,” Ward said.

“I didn’t even know they [Woolworths NZ] were applying for another resource consent to do this.”

The consent is for a driveway to FreshChoice supermarket off SH2, with safety risks in the current infrastructure cited as a reason for the proposed development.

In response, residents have raised the size and aesthetic of proposed signage, pedestrian safety, and potential damage to a copper beech tree as significant concerns.

Last year, Ward said he was in the unfortunate position of being the “meat in the sandwich” between Woolworths and the public.

Still feeling like the filling in a not-so-savoury snack, Ward has now said there has been very little communication from Woolworths NZ with him about the most recent application.

On initially seeing the consent, Ward said he expressed concerns to Woolworths NZ and sent alternative designs but didn’t receive any acknowledgement that this was taken on board.

According to Ward, Woolworths employees have visited the Greytown site and car park without letting him know, and he has had to sit on the sidelines during the consent process.

“It’s just felt like FreshChoice is getting battered, and it isn’t fair. Woolworths don’t have the interpersonal skills to deal with small-town sentiment and owner-operator engagement with that community,” said Ward.

“They don’t realise I know customers on a first-name basis, that my kids went to school with their kids, that I know the soccer club, the rugby club, and the bridge club.”

Trying to “pour oil on troubled waters”, Ward said the application includes positive aspects for Greytown’s look and feel, and there is a way to move forward without sacrificing safety, heritage, or arbour values.

“There have been some changes with the application that are far more in keeping with the town.”

After seeing a Times-Age story in which South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly called the proposed sign “the stupidest thing he had seen”, Ward said he reached out to Connelly.

Since then, Ward said he and the mayor have been having constructive conversations about the application and have found common ground.

“Martin was singing the same song I was,” Ward said.

“He had the same idea I did – that it was too big, bright, and loud. It didn’t fit and wasn’t appropriate.”

Connelly confirmed he has been talking with Ward about how to best move forward and address signage concerns.

“My own feeling at the time was that it was sort of like a spaceship – very inappropriate in a heritage zone,” Connelly said.

Ward and Connelly are both hopeful the most recent sign specifications, which are currently listed on the notified consent as 3.6m tall and 1.8m in width, will be suitable.

A hearing for the consent is scheduled for early October.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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