20 minutes with Sunny Kaushal, Chairperson of The Dairy and Business Owners Group

Whites Dairy Devonport NZ, source: Wikimedia Commons

The Dairy and Business Owners Group grew out of the Crime Prevention Group when Sunny Kaushal realised no one was looking out for the safety of dairy owners and their businesses.

Back in 2011, the Smokefree New Zealand announcement kick-started the official formation of the Association. While the Association did not necessarily disagree with the Smokefree goal, it had to act as representation for the thousands of small businesses that would have to change their business models.

With Smokefree New Zealand now a legalised reality for 2025, cigarette demand should decrease. Yet, tobacco is still responsible for many sales in convenience stores, and sales do not look to be decreasing. Alongside this, crime is surging, and convenience retailers are in the middle screaming for help.

Ram raids are a type of burglary that primarily affect dairy owners. Ram raiders do hit all kinds of businesses. However, most common are those outlets that stock cigarettes and vape products but recently, different types of stores, from clothing to appliances, are also being targeted.

Since 2018, crimes against smaller retailers and dairies have increased 21 percent, to over 9,000 offences. According to Kaushal, the Government needs to step up and actively respond to the Association’s call for action.

“Since the convenience industry generates around $3.4 billion in sales each year and the government collects around $2 billion a year in cigarette excise duties, there should be resources available to fund security upgrades in dairies, but the funds seem to be going elsewhere,” said Kaushal.

“What we’d like to see here on the streets are Police Community Support Officers like they have in the UK, with traffic wardens taken off revenue-generating ticketing and instead put into public safety roles.

“With new technology available to handle parking tickets, surely we can shift the funding away from ticketing shoppers and tradies and fund programmes that address the anti-social crime that is going on all around us?”

Successive governments have promised more police, but we are nowhere near the 2017 promise of 1800 officers to date.

“What is worse, gangs outnumber police in three police districts,” said Kaushal.

The challenge is to fund correctional facilities designed for youth and residential facilities to get vulnerable people off the streets and into supportive care programmes.”

Kaushal expressed his frustration as, despite rates of crime increasing, the number of arrests has been decreasing. In Wellington, for example, offences went up 6 percent, but arrests went down 27 percent. Or Canterbury, where offences increased 14 percent, but arrests dropped 18 percent. This up and down pattern is seen nationwide and is a concerning statistic for the safety of dairy and small business owners.

Kaushal doesn’t feel the police have abandoned them to deal with ram raids alone but thinks the exposure to the threat of ram raids with no support is a growing concern. With under 17’s being the most common perpetrators, and for this group, often there are zero consequences for their actions. The police are likely just as frustrated as the Association.

“What we need is actions to have consequences. For ram raiders to know that, when caught, there will be a penalty, no matter their age.”

While the Association is calling for changes across the entire justice system, the main complaint is that youths need to be prosecuted, not just taken home. Education is critical, and if these youths are also truants, then taking them back home without intervention is not the answer.

Security fog machines have been the subject of some financial support, and Kaushal noted that the funding should continue and could come from the cigarette excise. The units themselves cost around $4,000, with individual dairies covering $250 and the annual maintenance fee of about $350.

“We know from an OIA reply late last year that the Police Proceeds of Crime Fund is funding the purchase and installation of 1,000 fog cannons. Of which 891 had been installed into dairies most at risk from aggravated robbery, but that leaves over three thousand more businesses unprotected.”

“Be under no illusion, it is just a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured, and the government will be to blame because they have taxed cigarettes to be worth more than a bottle of whisky,” added Kaushal.

“That was once considered an unbelievable outcome and was often the subject of comedy satire, but it is now a reality for retailers. That tax-driven price of cigarettes and tobacco is why dairies are a target.”