Dairy owner’s dilemma

Puniu Road Dairy owner Prasad Perika outside his shop.

A Te Awamutu dairy owner wants compensation from Waipā District Council because roadworks outside his shop have “drastically impacted” his business.

More than a year after work started, Puniu Road Dairy owner Prasad Perika says he’s struggling to pay his bills.

In March 2022, he and wife Shravani were informed by council that work would start that month and would take five weeks.

Instead, Perika said, work on the roughly 650m stretch of road wasn’t completely finished until this past January, 10 months later.

Bryan Hudson

Waipā District Council transport manager Bryan Hudson said several unexpected considerations were encountered as work was undertaken.

“It was a major, difficult project. I acknowledge that, at times, it didn’t go as hoped.”

Hudson said work was prioritised to cause the least disruption.

“We were conscious of any impact and did our best to mitigate that.”

After the project started last March, the road was sealed late last June, Hudson said.

“But wet weather then caused potholes. When rain stopped, we went back in August and prioritised asphalt outside Puniu Road Dairy. Then, in January, we completed the rest.”

A stop and go system was in place during much of the work, and there were reports on social media of up to 40 minute wait times.

“Yes, works of this scale would have deterred some people, no doubt,” Hudson said.

“But dairy customers were always a consideration and we ensured a parking shoulder was always open.”

Perika said he’d regularly close his doors because customers couldn’t park outside.

He’s reporting an annual turnover between April last year and March 31 this year less than half that recorded during the same time the previous year.

There’s a similar drop in customers, he says.

Where up to 200 transactions a day was normal, he’s now lucky to see 90. I’m worried we’ll never get back to where we were.”

He’s asking council for compensation to survive financially.

“I’m not just asking for free money, but the road works did impact us, whether directly or indirectly. This is our bread and butter, we’ve faced a big loss.”

Hudson said he’d spoken to Perika.

“I understand a project will have some initial impacts. Council is required by law to do public works. There’s no policy or guidance for compensation.

“Instead, we do our best to plan the job effectively in advance, communicate those plans throughout and where there are businesses, we do our best to prioritise those locations with minimal disruptions.”

Perika thinks the delays resulted in people developing new spending habits.

He and Shravani also own Alexandra Street’s Top Of The Town Dairy.

They took over Puniu Road Dairy in September 2021, and in February 2022, the couple – who live behind the Puniu Road Dairy with their two children – began paying rent for the space next door.

They planned to open a fish and chip shop.

Had it not been for the drop in turn over, the shop would have opened last April, Perika says.

Now more than a year later, they’re paying rent on the still-empty space, and can’t say when it will open.

“I don’t want to lose hope, but wondering how I’m going to pay my bills is too much pressure.”

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