Apprehension, kindness, cruelty as Countdown reopens

Shoppers flooded back to Countdown Dunedin Central as it opened for the first time since a violent stabbing rocked the community.

The store reopened for what one staff member called a soft opening yesterday evening, ahead of its first full day back in action today.

The four victims of Monday’s stabbing remained in Dunedin Hospital yesterday, two in a serious condition and two in a moderate condition.

It was not quite business as usual yesterday, though.

A security guard was posted outside and another one was based inside the store.

The pharmacy will remain closed until Monday, except for the filling of repeat prescriptions. The deli and bakery sections were also empty last night.

Some staff opted to wear mufti to work.

Dunedin woman Tracey Gamble is keen to give daffodils to plant in the garden at Countdown Dunedin...
Dunedin woman Tracey Gamble is keen to give daffodils to plant in the garden at Countdown Dunedin Central. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
One shopper said he usually visited the supermarket every day. He was pleased to be back, but said Monday’s incident did play on his mind.

"It’s human nature to be a wee bit cautious," he said.

The violent attack appeared to have brought out the best, and worst, in the community.

Staff at other supermarkets around the city have been subjected to inappropriate comments and abuse in the wake of the stabbing.

But others in the city were showing their concern for those affected by the incident.

Countdown general manager of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said inappropriate comments had been made to staff both in Dunedin and elsewhere since the stabbing.

"We have zero tolerance for this, and I am distressed by the pain and revictimisation this has caused," she said.

They included a man who said "don’t get stabbed" to staff heading into a blessing at the store on Wednesday.

But, she said, there had also been an outpouring of love and support from across New Zealand as customers brought flowers, cakes and chocolates to their local stores.

"These gestures have been so welcomed and appreciated."

Among those wanting to show their support was Dunedin woman Tracey Gamble. She posted on social media about her idea to give some daffodils to plant in the small garden beside the supermarket.

The response was overwhelming.

"It actually snowballed. I’ve had so many messages, people wanting to help. It’s quite overwhelming."

Shoppers headed back into Countdown Dunedin Central yesterday for the first time since Monday’s...
Shoppers headed back into Countdown Dunedin Central yesterday for the first time since Monday’s stabbing. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
She knew people who worked at the supermarket, including one of her daughter’s best friends.

"It’s just affected everybody. It’s so close to home."

Another Dunedin woman, Julie Woods, planned to drop off 60 home-made truffles to staff today.

She also enlisted some of the pupils at St Clair Primary School and Kew Scouts to write notes of support to the staff.

"One of the sentiments on the notes written by the children was ‘We're all here for you’, a sentiment I could not have said better myself," she said.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said Ms Hannifin contacted him about a month ago to arrange a meeting about the escalating amount of abuse staff were facing.

As a former retail worker himself, he said he was familiar with the issues faced by those in customer-facing roles.

While most people treated them well, others used the imbalance of power to bully people and treat them poorly, he said.

"Clearly there is an entrenched problem."

There was ongoing work around ensuring retail environments were safe, he said.

When asked if that work would be fast-tracked in light of this week’s incident, he said it had highlighted the need for the work to continue.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

 

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