This is a guest post by reader Grady Connell. It was originally published on Today FM.

This is a story about the missing ingredient from both a cookie recipe… and newer housing developments.

After listening to Tova O’Brien’s interview about how walkable your neighbourhood is and completing a recent ride around Pukekohe’s newer neighbourhoods, it made me realise there’s a missing ingredient.

Imagine this, you’re making chocolate chip cookies. As you make your way through the recipe, you discover you’re just a quarter cup short on chocolate chips. The dilemma you face… A fifteen-minute round trip to the supermarket or a quick five-minute jaunt to the local dairy. Which one do you choose?

Well, on my ride through the desolate lands of suburbia, other than some surprising shared paths and a lot of cars parked on the footpath, I also noticed there was no local dairy.

Growing up in Pukekohe, we lived in an older neighbourhood built in the 60s. When mum was baking and missing an ingredient, my brother and I would jump on our bikes and ride to the local dairy to get the ingredients (and sometimes something for us too) and ride home again.

During my ride recently, I thought to myself ‘where do all these people go when they are making cookies and need to grab that one missing ingredient to finish the recipe?’

Looking at a map of one of the newer areas near Tamaoho School, there is a local dairy about 2.2km away. According to Google Maps, it’s around a 24 min walk or just over a 4 min drive. For a supermarket, there is PAK’nSAVE – 2.6km away, around a 31 min walk or a 5 min drive. But what if there was something even closer? Just around the corner…

In the map below, I have shown the walkable distance (500m) around shops in Pukekohe. The local dairies (grey), supermarkets in the older neighbourhoods (blue) and supermarkets in the newer neighbourhoods (red).As you can see, in the older neighbourhoods there is a higher number of dairies with large walkable catchments. The supermarkets are walkable too but in the newer areas there is a missing ingredient… the local dairy.

As you can see, in the older neighbourhoods there is a higher number of dairies with large walkable catchments. The supermarkets are walkable too but in the newer areas (red) there is a missing ingredient… the local dairy.

Meaning if you need something from the shops you need to drive or take a much longer walk to a local dairy or supermarket rather than a nice jaunt down the street. So, what’s the solution to the missing ingredients situation?

Change the zoning rules to allow for these smaller shops and dairies can be built in these new neighbourhoods. By adding in these shops, you make the whole area more walkable as short car trips under 2km make up nearly a third of all car trips. Overall, reducing these short trips is better for the environment and for your health too.

We need to add that missing ingredient back into our neighbourhoods, so it’s easier to send the kids on their bikes to the local dairy for that other missing ingredient.

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37 comments

  1. I like the sentiment of this article, but is a business based around people forgetting baking ingredients really viable? If the planning rules allowed for new diaries, would they be profitable businesses? I’m lucky enough to live in an area with several diaries but we hardly use them, apart from getting milk from one (it’s cheaper than the supermarket). Maybe supermarket reforms, forcing the big companies to sell wholesale to small ones, would help with this.

    1. Yes. If you actually want baked goods you can order them and they are delivered to your door. No need for dairies or messing around with flour. In the suburb shown above you could open a dairy on any one of those sites if you wanted. The Council doesn’t decide which site.

    2. I think you hit the nail on the head there, most density in Auckland is sufficient to support neighbourhood dairies. Those that still exist rely on long hours both from owners and their family members who aren’t drawing a wage.

      1. Surely you mean “most density in Auckland is [only] sufficient to support neighbourhood dairies [that] rely on long hours both from owners and their family members who aren’t drawing a wage.”?

  2. I suspect there will be fewer dairies in future. Smaller shops are in decline, and really dependent on low paid family labour. With tougher restrictions on selling tobacco many are unfortunately likely to go under. However, higher density could change things.
    The phenomena you noticed has been noticed in suburbs like Albany in the past.

    1. Just on that comment about density; it does make a huge difference

      I lived and worked overseas in a large apartment block; and there was a 7-11 style convenience store in the apartment building.

      I think two things made the difference; one was density, so that there were hundreds of apartments and maybe thousands of people within a few hundred meters, so always a stream of people wanting to buy a bottle of water, or some hot noodles etc

      The other, was that people like myself, although I had access to a car, it was not efficient in the big city; just getting the car out of the deep parking basement took much longer than just going to the store which was on ground level.

      While we did take the car occasionally and go to a hypermarket to stock up on booze and other bulk items, living in an apartment, it was much easier to drop into the local markets almost daily and pick up some food for dinner or lunch, in particular when walking back from the trains/subway, rather than cooking up stuff from the weekly supermarket run. The markets seemed to always be busy, and much nicer experience than driving and parking with the hypermarket

      1. When I lived in London almost everything I needed was within a short walk: dairies, booze stores, supermarkets, hardware stores, etc. There was virtually no parking around yet they were all much busier than anything here.

        1. When I lived in London there was everything I needed within one small block downstairs. Patisserie, coffee shop, sex store and brothel, Italian deli, pub, tobacconist, jazz club and casino. Everything but affordably priced food.

        2. Same in Brighton, a much smaller city but similar walkability (plus being cycling friendly). I never owned a car there.

  3. It is a mixed housing suburban zone so dairies are a restricted discretionary activity. If you want one then buy a site and make your application. If you think RD is too tough then blame the council planners who like to keep some discretion. They did the same making practically every subdivision of a site RD or D.

  4. The reduction in the number of local dairies is an ongoing phenomenon, and it is both directly related to the car-design of the suburb, and the growth of the “Super” market. Take, for instance, the Hill in Napier where I grew up – there used to be Nine !! dairies on street corners on the Hill alone. I know, because I used to have a paper run there and had to ride past all of them, every afternoon. Now, there is only One dairy left – all the others have closed, died off, long ago (mostly gone by the 90s). People in Napier have largely completely converted to cars (realistically, as there has been almost nothing in the way of public transport). But in a comparison with Wellington where I live now, there is still a thriving number of corner dairies on the side of Mount Victoria – a few less than there were, but still a significant number (I think I counted 14 at one stage?). An obvious answer there is that most people on Mt Vic still walk to work, or walk to the nearest bus stop. No one has off street parking (OK – very few) and people don’t want to lose their precious car park space outside their house, so they would still rather walk to the shop and pay the slightly outrageously high prices, than duck out in the car and lose their spot.

    By contrast, in Island Bay, the infamous CycleWay gets the blame for the demise of three local corner stores/dairy, because people can no longer park directly out the front. The Cycleway gets the blame – unfairly I think, as clearly it is the lazy people who would rather drive another kilometre to the Supermarket, than have to park 20m away from the front door of the dairy, and clearly, they are never going to walk or cycle, cos it is a matter of principle now!

    But from the photos of the suburb you show, there will never be a corner shop. The suburb has been completely designed in a way that supports cars, and encourages cars, and requires cars for it to work. It has almost zero density – along with zero life. Great for cars and people driving cars – absolutely crap for anything else, including corner shops.

    1. Always find it strange when people complain about not being able to park outside a small shop, but then are fine walking 50m from one end of a supermarket carpark to the entrance.

      1. The dairy is for ducking in to buy a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread not the weekly shop so the park and walk time is a big proportion of the total.
        BTW, have you ever noticed the people who will drive around the carpark for multiple minutes to find a park 10-20 seconds less walk time to the shop entrance? People in general are lazy.

  5. I have watched the development of new suburbs with sadness as it should be obvious to everyone we are building in car dependency. No cut through parks/alleyway that makes walking or cycling to a friend’s house quick or easy.
    Making the trip longer by car will lock people into using cars if the distance you have to walk/cycle is not shorter.
    It’s something that comes up when looking at access for train stations. Only 100m from it but you can’t access it directly you have to go the long way round.

    1. But surely people realise this when they buy / move there.
      The worst mistake we keep making is trying to give these places some average PT/walking/cycling options (like AMETI). I’m convinced it would be better to leave the car dependent areas as they are and spend the money making some really good car independent areas. Give people choice so they can choose to live in a car dependent area or a walking / cycling / PT area. By spreading the limited budget everywhere we end up with nowhere in Auckland that would you could genuinely call car independent except the central city.

      1. If the critical factor was eking out constrained funding, and we had to choose between areas to invest in, then I think your point would be worth considering.

        That constrained funding is a bit of a misconception, though. It only arises because they’re spending so much on projects conceived in past paradigms (eg ‘improving’ capacity). AMETI is a surely a good example of this? As you know, it is costing so much only because they’re determined to retain the general traffic capacity.

        The critical factor is actually that we need to reduce emissions really quickly, and so every area needs to see the same improvements, with the consequence being that we must take the far cheaper, road reallocation approach in order to afford such comprehensive work.

        Luckily, that’s also the best approach. It delivers safety and health gains to everyone. It reduces the burden of (expensive or unaffordable) car dependence everywhere so we don’t have to choose between areas. Far better to do this than consign some people to it for longer, quite inequitably.

        1. AMETI didn’t even try some interim measures of bus reliability … jump straight to busway.

          Could have had bus lanes on Pakuranga, Ti Rakau, EP highway a long long time ago …

  6. Future housing should be more about large multistory apartment buildings. Looking overseas, ground floors often contain the likes of dairy’s (7/11), hairdressers, bakery’s, small restaurants. This is much the same as housing developments of yesteryear. And your typical 7/11 might act as a post office, bank, courier service, etc.
    For the more fortunate there’d also be a subway entrance.

  7. Totally agree with this, and I think there are plans to make this happen with the NPS UD plan change because it is such a good idea. Living in Grey Lynn I worked out that everywhere is within a ten minutes walk of a dairy (and a cafe too) and if you go down Richmond Road every ten minutes of walking gets you to a little centre, because I imagine under ten minutes is about the time you will walk, and presumably for half of us that time period is less than 5 minutes. Makes all the difference in the world.

  8. There’s some detailed analysis of the number of local dairies in different areas of Hamiliton on the Hamilton Urban Blog: https://www.hamiltonurbanblog.co.nz/?s=dairies.

    Extract: “The reason there are fewer local dairies west of the Dinsdale shops and Nawton Mall is the district planning rules first introduced in the 1960s….The introduction of the car did not reduce the economic sustainability of the local dairies in the orange area: it was the District Scheme/ Plan rules that made the opening of new dairies too difficult.”

    1. Well that’s interesting! And if true, then it is good news – because District Plan rules can be changed. So maybe the end is not nigh…

  9. Isn’t this just a symptom of low density greenfield housign as found all over the world? I don’t think a plethora of dairy’s will change it. Stop locking people out of places where there are amenities, basically.

  10. Very interesting. Is there a diary planned for the 700 odd new houses in Waiuku?. If not they will all drive to New World. ( I occasionally walk and I will be closer to New World than all of them with it being 12 minutes one way.

  11. I think that the biggest issue preventing dairies in these areas is actually low density. There simply are not enough customers within walk up catchment of these dairies. The new suburbs built in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s had similar housing density, but they could support dairies because these houses had an average of over 6 people living in them. Low density suburbia now has a similar housing density and <3 people per household. Local dairies and supermarkets thrive in New Zealand's medium density suburbs (the villa belt, Wellington City, Dinsdale, The Avenues). If we want neighbourhood amenities, we need enough people in those communities to support the local amenities.

    1. Local dairies are more personality driven then formula driven.
      In Hamilton there is no evidence that supper-markets reduce the demand for independent diaries
      Dinsdale has very good supper-markets yet all the half dozen local dairies within a 2km radius that where there before the two supper-markets set up shop are still there, One of the supper-markets only survived about decades before closing.
      The some of these dairies have a catchment of 750 local people.
      https://www.hamiltonurbanblog.co.nz/2015/11/swarbrick-frankton-local-dairies/

    2. Yes and perhaps the size of families have reduced in general so has had an effect. ie Children specifically, which perhaps are the biggest dairy consumers (lollies, snacks, soft drinks & the meat pie).

  12. Nice article Grady. Belmont in Pukekohe is an unfortunate sprawly mess which is a niggly 2km from Pukekohe Town Centre. Hopefully some of the work Panuku is leading +NPS UD will encourage higher density living on the edges of Pukekohe.

    However given Belmont is a new build suburb it is unlikely to change its urban form or get a great enough population density to support small businesses anytime soon.

    Therefore what needs to happen is the focus needs to shift to how do we make it easier for people to get from Belmont to Pukekohe Town Centre without needing a car now? At just over 2km it is not that far to bike (or walk for that matter if time is less essential and the walker has reasonable fitness).

    Looking at AT’s Future Connect map of Pukekohe ( https://mahere.at.govt.nz/futureconnect/ ). Getting a cycleway along West Street would be a huge link between Belmont. Whilst not all the way it would make it much more enticing to cycle from out there and of course for eveyone in between.

    Currently that road on any given day has very few cars parked on it. The reason is that virtually every property along that road has offstreet parking (This is the same as every road in the Future Connect network).

    The cars that are parked there are most likely a family’s 2nd/3rd or 4th car . The storage of personal assets on this potential movement corridor is maddening. The opportunity cost is immense.

    I know in terms of making Auckland more urban Pukekohe is well down the pecking order but i would’ve thought that getting the future connect cycle network in would be so much easier to pull off here.

    Recently near Belmont a walking bridge was put in at a cost of $2m. How many ‘tim tams’ and paint would’ve that bought to deliver Pukekohe’s strategic cycle network now?

    I think a really good citizen’s led initative would be to do surveys of how many cars are actually parked onstreet on the Future Connect Cycle Network.

    As a local i can tell you on any given day it is very few… I’m sure the schools would also be interested to support as would the Local Board

    1. Parking surveys are sometimes done as part of understanding upcoming projects. They can be quite useful, with data about how long cars are parked where, and whether the same cars park there frequently, etc. Given the recent consultation about Pukekohe I wonder if you should ask for such a survey? Even if you don’t get an immediate yes, asking might mean it’s included in a piece of work at a later stage.

      1. or we could go and count them ourselves. Video of Pukekohe today. The Franklin Trails crew have built a cycle link into the new subdivision at the north western corner, with an access granted by watercare, and we’re working on a trail along the stunning Whangapouri stream. Have a look at the dashcam vid of “a day in the life of Pukekohe”. AT/AC – we need you help.

        https://youtu.be/bUsXbcIx33s?t=131

  13. The problem is not allowing dairies to be built – it’s getting enough density to allow neighbourhood centre businesses to thrive. Masterplanning either zones commercial at the wrong size or place, or doesn’t protect it to reserve it until it is viable to build. Neighbourhood centres need to be far enough from other centres that they can capture their full local market, with enough people living there to support their businesses – not just dairies, but health services and other parts of daily life. You won’t get businesses without customers, but customers without businesses just reinforces car dependency.
    Belmont should have got its shops opposite the school on Taikaranga Street. What did it get? Bungalows! It’s easier to sell houses than businesses, even where lots of people gather daily and 2-4 times as many could have been living over the businesses. One of the Precincts that failed to get a proper plan in the rush to write the AUP.

    1. Streetguy
      The best place to locate a independently own local dairy, is allow them to open their dairy within the neighbourhood where and how they want and decide it is right and convenient for them.
      In Hamilton there many dairies with a few metres of each other.

      In the review of the District Scheme in the late 1970s, supermarket franchiser Foodstuffs suggested to town planners that a small ‘dairy grocery would not present an economic proposition’. Yet half a century later local dairies are still economically sustainable even when not near a main road

  14. My wife goes to “William’s shop” or sends me, with confidence he can supply anything from cream to pumpkins! Even if it’s not out front just ask. It’s all about his intuition and hard work and his wife’s too…but who has either of those any more? Which is another part of why the decline. (Some of you know who William is)

  15. One of the newer dairies I recall was on the corner of Arranmore Drive and Flat Bush School Rd. It seems it didn’t last very long and is now a local real estate agents office. I grew up and currently live in a 1960s neighbourhood and have always enjoyed frequenting the local dairy. Like the holiday park I consider them a vital part of kiwi culture.

  16. “Change the zoning rules to allow for these smaller shops and dairies can be built in these new neighbourhoods”

    +1

    The government’s new rules allowing 3 houses x 3 storeys per section should include the right to have commercial on the ground floor – just like oldstyle walkable cities

  17. Someone needs to also solve the problem of the ram-raiding kids epidemic, which is affect so many of our local dairies and other ground floor businesses.

    1. Bollards.

      Potentially these can be dual function – bike racks, seating, planters, etc.

      Where space allows, other landscaping such as mature trees and rainwater gardens can also protect premises from attack by motorists.

      Also good for keeping footpaths clear of migrating herds of double-cab utes.

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