Dairy owners: change don’t blame

November 26, 2022
4 mins read

The government are not to blame for dairy owners’ crime woes, writes GARY STEEL.

Like anyone with a heart I was shocked and saddened by the death by stabbing of a young man in a Sandringham, Auckland dairy this week.

Like many older New Zealanders, I also mourned for a country that no longer exists, the country I grew up in during the ‘60s and ‘70s when shop owners felt justifiably safe.

Once again, however, there’s a chorus of dairy owners and organisations that represent them blaming the government for a lack of support or action on a problem that appears to be getting worse, and the violence more cavalier.

They’re now building up to a planned nationwide protest to demand action from government on the issue. What they expect the government to do about it isn’t clear. And why do they think that the government should be ready with a support package, anyway?

It seems sensible to look overseas to see what kind of support convenience store owners get from their governments when faced with ram-raiders or individuals determined to steal cash, cigarettes or alcohol. I suspect that businesses in Australia, the UK and the US would have to deal with these problems themselves. Many such businesses in America, for instance, are heavily fortified. It’s the price they pay for having a cowboy mentality and making guns freely available.

I remember my first visit to America in the 1980s and how taxis and convenience stores had impenetrable screens to keep customers at bay.

Most of the media coverage I’ve seen has focused on the one hand on the understandable grief around the stabbed dairy employee, and the various dairy, alcohol and vape stores that have been robbed, sometimes repeatedly. Once those media reports have had their ounce or two of emotive coverage, they then quickly turn to the anger from the community at the government’s supposed inaction. The mainstream media is complicit in this bullshit, using its own bias instead of looking at the real issues.

But what about the businesses themselves? We seem to have a reticence to discuss the elephant in the room. For a long time now, dairies have made most of their profit dealing in death: selling cigarettes, the thing the burglars and ram-raiders mostly aspire to steal. The other main targets of ram-raiders are the two singularly most noxious poxes on the scene: the small grog shops that have popped up everywhere along with vape shops.

Like old-fashioned redneck Kiwi farmers who are holding back action on climate change, dairy owners need to get with the times. We’re supposed to be ridding Aotearoa of cigarettes, but dairies continue to sell them with no compunction. Their morality is questionable, at the very least. If dairy owners stopped selling ciggies and bothered to find something healthier that people wanted to spend money on, then the problem would more or less go away. Blaming the government is rich in irony, given their intention to rid the nation of cigarettes sooner rather than later.

There’s solid research available on the deleterious effects of vaping, with addiction to the unhealthy habit rife amongst school-age teens, but that hasn’t stopped vape shops popping up everywhere, even within viewing distance of educational establishments. Ditto those horrid wee grog shops, which rely on low incomes and alcohol addictions for their income. When a vape shop or a grog shop is ram-raided or burgled, I feel sorry for the person behind the counter, because they’re most likely just doing a job for the owner. But using simple logic, it doesn’t make sense to blame the government for burglaries of shops that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and by existing, encourage crime.

As someone who has hung out a lot in Sandringham and eaten hundreds of times at its delicious Indian restaurants, I’ve often found myself reading NZ-based Indian newspapers, and been shocked at how right-wing and National-supporting they are. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that the initiative behind the protest is from this conservative, right-leaning sector of the Indian community, a sector that has a lot to gain by painting the Labour government as not doing enough to deal with crime.

India has become a country that’s openly intolerant of its Muslim population, and what New Zealand’s democracy can show is a country that treats all cultures and races with the same generosity of spirit, and gives them the same rights under the law. Those outraged business organisations supporting NZ dairies and blaming their woes on the government need to realise that democracy isn’t just having the freedom to make as much money as you want. There’s a code of decency built into a true democracy that includes having an ethical approach to business. Dairy owners can no long pretend that they’re completely innocent when they’re effectively dealing death sentences on sticks to people who, much of the time, will go without something they really do need – possibly for their kids – because of their addiction to tobacco.

Yes, let’s deal with this crime wave but let’s not automatically blame the government for every problem we have. If you need to, build impermeable screens between shop staff and customers in your retail outlets, but pay for them with the profits from the crap you’re dealing to the populace, not the government coffers. If the government pays, that means every taxpayer in NZ ends up paying for something that you generate through the type of items you sell.

Many farmers are now thinking outside the square, getting creative and entrepreneurial and some are moving from dairy to horticulture, or simply running their businesses with sustainability in mind. It’s time for shop owners to do the same. Cigarettes might make up a substantial part of the average dairy’s income, but that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean that a creative think-tank couldn’t come up with a less morally dubious way for dairy owners to earn a living that’s much less of a magnet for crime. So here’s a challenge for the business groups who are incensed with the government over the violence towards dairy owners: instead of perpetuating the blame game, how about finding better ways for dairies to do business.


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Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. New Zealanders do not agree with you. This government is entirely to blame with their soft on criminals approach and getting rid of the three strikes legislation

  2. Completely agree with you. There’s no way government should be subsidising dairies for security precautions. Bollards to it

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