22 Feb 2024

Another rat captured at Dunedin Countdown

From Checkpoint, 5:28 pm on 22 February 2024

Another rodent has been captured in the Dunedin South Countdown supermarket that has been closed almost two weeks because of an infestation.

That means further delays to any reopening.

The store has been battling the unwanted intruders since October last year, but things came to a head when a rat was photographed in the deli section.

The supermarket has previously claimed the rats are breaking into the building, rather than nesting inside. There have been nearly two dozen caught over the last couple of weeks.

Jason Stockill from Countdown's parent company Woolworths told Checkpoint pests like rats were "a common challenge for any food environment, and especially in the warmer weather".

"While it's normal for them to attempt to enter the food premises, it's absolutely our responsibility to do everything possible to keep them out, and we have had a few challenges over the last couple of weeks.

"But it's important that both ourselves and MPI, who we're working very closely with, and Rentokil, are confident before we reopen for the community. We've got to make sure we get the confidence back in the community."

At present, the store is set to reopen on Sunday, he said - by which time they hope to have achieved 48 hours without finding any further rats.

"We'll be then back to what we will call business-as-usual, which is our pest management processes and controls that we have in place."

Though he was convinced the rats were not living in the store, on Thursday they did find some "old nests" inside one of the store's rear walls. 

"The good news is that there's no signs of the live nest, which Rentokil have confirmed."

He said all potential points of entry have now been "closed up". 

"We're confident in that now and Rentokil have also confirmed that with us."

Asked if there was a possibility they may have to empty the entire building and fumigate it, Stockill said it was not an option because of all the food.

"We'll have to work on with MPI and Rentokil to understand what the next actions are if we can't open overseas over the next few days."

Meanwhile, staff were still getting paid. Some were still working in the affected store, and others had taken up roles at other stores the company has in Dunedin. 

New Zealand Food Safety is investigating the cause and scale of the problem, saying it could take several months. Woolworths' pest control and maintenance practices in New Zealand were under review by a third party appointed under the Food Act 2014.