Close supermarket and go, staffers told

Workers at Countdown's Puketona Rd supermarket in Paihia found themselves on the streets after a late court decision ended the company's lease effective immediately yesterday.

Workers turned up as usual for work from 7am yesterday but about 10am were asked to leave, per the directions of the building owner Ian Blakeman of Kerikeri. Mr Blakeman did not respond to requests for comment by the Northern Advocate by edition time.

First Security was on hand throughout the day to turn away staff and customers, while the entire site was fenced off.

Countdown parent company Progressive Enterprises tried for a number of months to renew the lease on the site before Mr Blakeman took the matter to the Auckland High Court. It was due before the court on Tuesday at 5pm and the court ruled in his favour.

The Advocate understands Countdown thought it had 24 hours to inform staff and vacate the premises.

Countdown managing director Dave Chambers said the company was exceptionally disappointed the site had to be vacated yesterday.

"Despite a long negotiation and our strong desire to continue to provide the people of Paihia with their only full-service supermarket, we've been asked to stop trading immediately," Mr Chambers said.

Last month the company opened a smaller Countdown in central Paihia which stocked essential produce, though it isn't able to sell alcohol.

Everyone who worked at the Puketona Rd location would been given the opportunity to transition to new positions in Countdown's central Paihia, Kerikeri and Kaikohe supermarkets.

Countdown has occupied the Puketona Rd site for the last 13 years and local residents have said they are upset at its closure.

One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she had shopped at the store almost every day since it opened and thought the workers would be "devastated".

Locals knew there were some issues but thought they were talking them through, she said.