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Dairy owners appreciate community support

Flagstaff Team

Signs of support…Priti and Nimesh Patel with their son Khush (5) outside their Elizabeth Dairy in Belmont

Turning bad memories into good memories is how Elizabeth Dairy owners Nimesh and Priti Patel say they have got through the shock of having their Belmont store ram-raided this month.

“The trauma was bad, the whole night we cried. But the next day everyone came around,” said Priti. “We were so supported and blessed.”

Her husband, known to customers as Nim, says: “I want to make a big shout-out to the community. Without them we would not survive.”

They have been inundated with good wishes since the raid in the early hours of Monday 11 July, when the couple were relaxing in their home upstairs while five-year-old son Khush slept. Most of their customers have since expressed their support, which is also evident in messages of goodwill written on the boarded-up shop frontage.

Several teachers from Belmont Primary, where Khush started as a pupil just three weeks earlier, turned up to help with the clean-up.

And a neighbouring builder, John Excell, stayed up through the night, securing the store front with timber and helping the Patels as police attended.

After six years in the store, Nimesh is determined the crime will not defeat them, although both he and Priti are sleeping little and taking turns with early and late starts to ensure everything is in order.

Nimesh says he can’t help but worry for his family. “It’s always in the mind, because of what’s going on through Auckland now.”

Bollards will arrive this week. A security roller front and new window will also be installed at the dairy. Nearly $15,000 raised for the family in a Givealittle appeal will be used to offset these costs.

Nimesh said he first made inquiries with Auckland Council three years ago about how to go about getting bollards installed, but had little joy getting a useful response.

After the recent armed-offenders squad call-out in Bardia St, he again made inquiries and was told to apply for permission through Auckland Transport (AT). Three days before his shop was targeted, he sent photos of his store frontage to AT to get the process underway.

Although AT announced just last month that it was streamlining bollard installation in response to a spate of ram-raids across Auckland, it still takes time. At the store owner’s expense, a scene survey must be done of any underground services, which AT then factors into its decision.

The bollards will cost him $1200- $1500 each, with four or five likely to be needed. Then there’s the cost of replacing glass and installing the roller frontage at more than $10,000. With supply issues, he has been told glass replacement may take two to three months.

Nimesh appreciated Auckland Councillors Richard Hills and Chris Darby urging AT to expedite the bollard approval.

The Givealittle campaign organised by customer Adam Bennett was a big help, said Nimesh. He is blown away with the amount raised.

The couple say local mothers who rallied around Priti, and Belmont Primary principal Bruce Cunningham – who is ensuring Khush gets plenty of support – are others they are grateful to.

The Elizabeth Dairy is the couple’s first business. Nimesh, who previously worked in a service station, moved to New Zealand from India around eight years ago. His wife has been here for 15 years. They moved to Belmont from Red Beach.

“We love this community, especially all the kids,” he says.

  • Ten young people, aged 12 to 17, were arrested after fleeing the dairy in two stolen cars. Six have been referred to Youth Aid and four will appear in the Youth Court.

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