Shop owners in fear following tobacco tax hike
The New Years' Day tobacco price hike has dairy and shop owner more worried than ever about robberies and violence toward them.
Already roberies have taken place throughout the country.
In the early hours of Friday morning the Z Petrol Station on Taranaki Street in Wellington was robbed by five men, who stole cash and cigarettes.
It was reported the offenders were carrying a screwdriver.
The men have not been caught and police are still making enquiries.
The 10 percent tax hike - an effort toward making New Zealand smokefree by 2025 - has been criticised by the Crime Prevention Group - an advocacy group representing dairy, petrol station and shop owners.
President Sunny Kaushal says shop owners were "living in fear" of being attacked during a robbery.
"The cigarette tax has been increasing year after year and it hasn't delivered the objectives that they wanted to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.
"People are still buying it and compromising buying other stuff... it has opened up a lot more problems than solutions," he said.
"It has given rise to the crime there is an underlying black market. Because this is such an expensive item [criminals] are finding it an easy target to go to the dairies and attack the owners without any negotiations."
Since January 2010 tobacco tax has gone up by at least 10 per cent each year.
The Crime Prevention Group was set up two years ago and represents thousands of shop owners throughout the country.
Sunny says the government needs to invest more in shop owners' safety.
"The earnings from the cigarette tax - if they invest even a fraction of this into the market - for the safety of shop owners and their workers that will go a long way and would really help.
"That's what any government should be doing."
He says penalties for offenders need to be harsher.
"What we have been asked is to review the existing law, it needs to be tougher against assaults and aggravated robbery.
"There also needs to be more police on the roads and patrolling and police in community stations - those need to be reopened."
Some owners have also been reported to now be choosing not to stock cigarettes, to the detriment of their business, says Sunny.
"Not many are giving up selling, there are a few, but why should they? Are we not able to look after their security and safety? We are a first-world society. Having them living in fear is not okay.
"At the end of the day selling cigarettes is not a crime... this is helping get customers in the doors because a customer will buy other stuff as well."
He says the $1.8 million security fund set up by the government in 2017 has helped, but more needed to be done.
Last year robberies were relatively slow during January but picked up again as people got away from holiday-mode, says Sunny.
"People are away and when they come back after the holidays, come February March there was quite an increase.
"We are holding our breath, but it's not going to be a good situation if it happens again."