Pōkeno has come of age.
Waikato District Council has received an application by Woolworths NZ Limited for resource consent to construct and operate a Countdown supermarket at 58 Great South Road. The site is in the Pōkeno town centre, opposite the town’s other food businesses on Great South Road – Pokeno Country Cafe, The Bakehouse Cafe, Pokeno Bacon, Pokeno Superette, Johnson Takeaways and The Original Pokeno Ice Cream and Coffee Shop.
Countdown spokesman Jason Stockill said the company purchased the site in 2012 for future development. “[We] had identified Pōkeno as an up and coming area, and we received resource consent to build a small supermarket,” Stockill said. “Following discussions with the local council we’ve ended up applying for a new resource consent application for a larger Countdown supermarket given the growth in the area. The application is currently going through public consultation.”
Pōkeno’s nearest large-scale supermarket is Countdown in Pukekohe, 15km away, although there is also a Four Square in Bombay, 9km away, and a SuperValue in Tuakau, 8km away. The burgeoning town has had its struggles over the years. Its main road was bypassed in the early 1990s. But thanks to the Auckland housing market spike, Pōkeno’s population is set to triple in coming decades. Once a town of 150 people in the ’90s, the town is now booming with around 2000 people calling it home today. That number is set to increase to at least 7000 within the decade. The town’s projected eventual growth is 20,000 people. Smack-bang in the middle of Auckland and Hamilton, Pōkeno’s abundant rural land provided the ideal place for new homes to be built.
Woolworths’ proposal seeks consent for a 3,000sqm supermarket building, 200sqm of at-grade office space and 100sqm for a plant, as well as 146 parking spaces on-site. Earthworks are expected to take approximately three to four months with an initial additional pre-loading stage of six to eight weeks. Construction of the sub grade, the supermarket building and site works to form a new road – Wellington St – could take approximately seven to eight months.
Helen Clotworthy, owner of Pōkeno Bacon, said the new supermarket would be a “fabulous asset”. “We acknowledge the competition that it would bring but we have stood the test of time. Our customers love our product, and our service, so we are confident we will retain those customers.”
Raj Patel, owner of Pokeno Superette – the town’s sole grocery store – said the large supermarket coming to town would be a positive thing. “It’s good for the Pōkeno community. The giant has traditionally killed the small businesses, but it may bring more people and [we could always] change the business to something else. It’s the time to do it now, but they will take time to build up and start [operating].”
Bunnin Kong, owner of The Original Pokeno Ice Cream and Coffee Shop, famous for its large ice creams, said the proposal was exciting. The ice cream shop is already heaving with customers in the summer months. “It will attract more customers to the shop. There has already been more and more customers [lately] with the growth of housing in Pōkeno.”
Awaroa ki Tūākau ward councillor Jacqui Church said she was excited for Pōkeno and the surrounding districts. “Of all the needs and wishes of local residents, a supermarket has been their number one preference. Like all locals, I too am absolutely rapt that we will have such a well-appointed supermarket close by. I’m looking forward to doing my personal shopping here and meeting the locals in the aisles as we shop.” Church said it was great to see the supermarket chain commit their resources to Pōkeno. “Their vision and commitment is another endorsement that reinforces, yet again, the vibrancy of [the town]. It is a most welcome addition to our community’s wellbeing and the future growth of our north Waikato towns.”