I have had great pleasure in bringing good news from The Trusts business operations in recent years and also explaining how our philosophy is to be a force for good in the West Auckland community, our owners, through our “Giving Back” programme.
As the NZ economy came through very tough times over recent years our focus has been on increasing both our efficiency and our profits and, thus, the money available to give back to our community.
Our owners – you, the public – demand we sell liquor responsibly and a key part of this is maintaining a balance between service, choice, price, profit and convenience on the one hand and a restraint in the number and type of stores we operate on the other.
The reason for restraint is that liquor stores on every street corner can lead to increased crime and social harm. Studies show that too many stores and supermarkets and longer opening hours means access to liquor increases. Some operators cut prices desperately to get a bigger share of the business and increase their profit without regard for their community.
So, the more liquor outlets there are, the cheaper liquor is and the easier it is to access. That’s not a problem for responsible drinkers but it does feed the needs of people who abuse liquor. And with abuse comes irresponsibility, crime, and social harm.
I sometimes wonder if our critics fully appreciate the issues many other areas of Auckland and New Zealand face with a proliferation of liquor outlets (both stores and supermarkets). I hope many can accept the fact that community-owned liquor businesses, operating with restraint, really do deliver the best result. Arguably thinking how we can “minimise our footprint” in the community interest, is completely alien in the private sector where profit is always the major driving factor.
On the other hand, the public does demand a quality service that is convenient. We have addressed quality service through the recent establishment of two exciting new retail liquor stores in West Auckland – West Liquor and Village Wine & Spirits.The range of choice they provide and the new pricing model which is fully competitive with other responsible retailers is meeting the mark. World-leading training programmes mean that our staff know their job and their product; if you come into our stores and ask for advice, you will get it from people who know their stuff and know how to treat a customer properly. They are also well trained in our community expectation to sell liquor responsibly and we have an industry leading track record of not selling to minors in this community.
We are constantly planning how to balance a convenient service and keeping a responsible number of stores located in the right places. That is why we are opening a new West Liquor store in Westgate, in May. Having closed two stores last year because they weren’t a good fit with their communities, our total number when Westgate is opened will be 23 stores (one less than we had two years ago). That means almost every resident in the urban areas of West Auckland is within 3km of a West Liquor or Village Wine & Spirits store without your neighbourhoods being plastered with shabby liquor outlets. We aim to keep the number at an optimum while providing a convenient and exceptional service to that large sector of population that lives in the Massey North and West.
As with all our new stores, we are confident that the West Liquor store will be a credit to Westgate with its bright, open, safe, colourful, welcoming and proudly West appearance and shoppers and fellow businesses will welcome it.
Of course we are also continuing with the refurbishment of our other stores and looking closely at the style of bars and restaurants that we see evolving in other parts of the city to meet local preferences.
“Giving Back” is more than just about the money. It’s also about making West Auckland a better place and having a socially responsible model for alchohol sales that minimises harm. To some extent as one of the biggest employers and the biggest community owned businesses “out West” giving back is also about helping to promote and preserve the values and special character of the West.
A recent study showed that among Auckland residents, those in the Henderson Massey Community Board area were the second least likely to say that alcohol and drug problems caused them to feel unsafe in their CBD (Henderson).
The same study also showed that West Auckland has the lowest incidence of alcohol-related traffic crashes in Auckland. West Auckland has the 5th largest urban population in New Zealand, and yet a recent study showed it had the 30th lowest rate of alcohol-related road crashes out of the 71 urban communities throughout the country.
It was also gratifying to read that many community submissions to the Alcohol Law Reform Bill (2010) basically recognised that ideally supermarkets and dairies should not be allowed to sell alcohol or had contributed to issues associated with wide availability and have commoditised a sensitive product that needs greater care in how its sold than perhaps more basic day to day essential commodities like bread and milk.
When we look at our renowned arts and cultural scene, the trail blazing sustainable urban management, environmental programmes like Project Twin Streams, the millions contributed to the community each year by TTCF, the huge value the community gets from The Trusts Arena and the Te Pai Netball Centre, the sports facilities and all the other good things throughout West Auckland, we have every reason to be proud. Very proud.
It’s not, Wild West, but West is Best! And many Aucklanders are discovering this for themselves with the very considerable population growth as people flock to live here. We at The Trusts are very proud to be Westies and of our part in helping to maintain and grow the special character of West Auckland.