By Tom Taylor of rnz.co.nz
More than $100,000 has been raised for the family of a slain dairy shop worker in the Auckland suburb of Sandringham.
Friday marks one month since Janak Patel was killed in a robbery, sparking nationwide protests over the safety of small businesses.
More than 2000 people, many of them anonymous, have made donations since his death on November 23.
Business leaders said the success of the fundraiser showed the community’s solidarity.
However, they were concerned about what this summer could hold for the shops that stayed open throughout the holidays.
Dairy and Business Owners Group chairman Sunny Kaushal said it was heartening to see the community rallying together. The group had started the Givealittle page to support Patel’s family, and it would be split between his wife and elderly parents.
“It shows that Kiwis care,” Kaushal said.
“Kiwis care for each other. They have come together, and we are one.”
But he said people were uniting over something that should never have happened.
He [Janak Patel] just came to the country in April.
“They were trying to build their lives, they were planning their family… But everything is shattered by this senseless crime.”
Sandringham Business Association chairman Jithin Chittibomma said the dust was still settling after the killing.
He said it was important that people did not become complacent about the ongoing risk of crime.
We still need to talk about what happened and why it happened.
“We have to resolve the continuous problems we’re having, and not wait for another death or another serious incident.”
Chittibomma was concerned that as the city became quieter with many Aucklanders heading out of town for holidays, small business owners could be more at risk.
We are just hoping that it doesn’t ramp up the ram-raids.
“It’s easier to ram-raid and rob a dairy during the holiday period because the neighbors are usually away, so it is quite a scary period.”
Sandringham dairy owners said it had been a stressful year, and the holiday period would not provide any relief as most continued working.
At Edendale Superette, Shazia Ketan said she would not be taking a break at all.
Her daughter Mariam translated that she doesn’t have time to have a holiday. She’s always working during this season.
“She works full time all week, seven days a week – she works all the time. Even on Christmas, every public holiday, weekends, everything, she’s constantly working.”
Up the road at Rocky’s Superette, Rinkesh Patel had been working relentlessly for four years.
There were no staff members to cover for him if he was sick, and closing the shop was not an option as he still had to pay the rent.
His work had taken a toll on his young family.
“I can’t even [take] time with my kids,” Rinkesh said.
“My son is now four years old. He’s never been to the sea. We don’t have time. My wife is working, and I’m working.
“We can’t close the shop and go to the beach. It’s hard, dairy life.”
Amid the spate of break-ins and ram raids on small businesses, robbers had hit his dairy twice this year.
Since then, I haven’t slept at all at night-time.
“[I’m] mentally stressed a lot. I wake up at around one o’clock or midnight, sometimes three o’clock, [and] look out the window for someone breaking in, because I live upstairs.”
Rinkesh paid for a security guard out of his own pocket for six months.
But with pressure continuing to mount, he made the tough decision to sell his business.
It would allow him time to take his family for a holiday in India.
Meanwhile, he said people spending their summer in New Zealand could show their appreciation for dairy workers simply by shopping at their stores.
“I just reckon at least you guys come to buy some little stuff.
“I’m not suggesting you buy all the groceries; I know it’s a little bit more expensive than the supermarket. But at least you can buy milk or bread – even lollies are better as well.”
The fundraiser for Janak Patel’s family would close tomorrow.