Why subdivision could save river town

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 08:44 01/07/2013
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DAVID HALLETT
HIGH HOPES: Kaiapoi Promotions Association co-ordinator Jane Seddon

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After the earthquakes left 1000 Kaiapoi homes red-zoned, business owners could be forgiven for feeling uncertain about their future. But, as the river town rebuilds, it is eyeing new subdivisions in the area as a much-needed shot in the arm. TAMLYN STEWART reports in the seventh in a series examining business precincts in greater Christchurch.

Kaiapoi's business community wants the town to become a destination for people from Christchurch, and subdivisions being developed nearby, Kaiapoi Promotions Association co-ordinator Jane Seddon says.

The Silverstream and Sovereign Palms subdivisions meant Kaiapoi had "a large influx of people coming", and Kaiapoi businesses needed to make sure those people shopped locally and didn't jump on the highway and head for Christchurch instead.

Many businesses were severely affected by the September 2010 earthquake and had to close or relocate. The number of businesses operating in Kaiapoi is now lower than it was before the September 2010 quake (694 in 2012, compared with 728 in 2010) but those businesses now employ more staff (2280) than before September 2010 (2209).

A recent report by Waimakariri District business support agency Enterprise North Canterbury found that any service or products associated with the rebuild of Kaiapoi and Christchurch were experiencing strong growth and the rapid development of new subdivisions were keeping people in the area. There is an existing commercial infrastructure in the form of supermarkets, professional services, an auto industry and food outlets.

Seddon said one of the challenges for businesses in Kaiapoi was waiting for the infrastructure and road repairs to be completed.

Work is under way to repair the north part of Williams St, including reconstruction of Charles St roundabout.

It had been quieter for retailers in the last six months but, once the Williams St roundabout had been upgraded, that would make it easier for customers to reach businesses, she said.

"It's tough out there but we're a determined lot."

Blackwells Department Store's new building on the corner of Raven Quay and Williams St would be completed in October and a new council service centre building, including a library and an art gallery, will be built on the opposite corner.

Some businesses are still feeling the effects of the quakes as they grapple with insurance issues, roadworks and building issues.

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Hammer Hardware Kaiapoi owner Peter Renwick said the business itself had been stable, but its building is only 26 per cent of the building code. His landlord would not strengthen the building so they could not get insurance, nor could they sell the business because a buyer would not be able to get insurance either. Even if he had found alternative premises, moving would have cost about $70,000.

The business can only operate within a certain geographic area and he had searched fruitlessly for premises in the area. After the lease expires next month, they will close up shop and move to Tauranga.

"It means I've worked for five years for nothing," he said. "But you can't dwell on things like that.

He and his wife had decided to "go somewhere warm and pick up the pieces".

Wrapt in Kaiapoi owners Prue Hobill and Jax Cockburn opened their clothing and gift store in Kaiapoi 15 months ago but closed up shop last week, with plans to move to premises on Wairaki Rd, in Christchurch. Until Christmas business had been steady but it had grown quieter over the last few months.

They blamed roadworks, and a lack of foot traffic and not enough attractions to draw people to Kaiapoi.

"We could be a museum some days," Hobill said.

However, others are surviving. Joan Whillans, owner of Kaiapoi Florist, has traded there for nine years.

"We are busy every day. Last week was a good week even though the weather was awful.

"A lot of people moved out because of the earthquakes, because they were red-zoned and we thought it was going to be a disaster . . . but it's honestly not."

That was thanks to people being more conscious of supporting their local community, she said.

The Silverstream and Sovereign Palms developments would be good for Kaiapoi businesses, as would the opening of Blackwells Department Store's new building.

It would take a while for the town to be repaired and restored, but Whillans said "I do think Kaiapoi is going to fly."

Michael Blackwell, the fifth generation of Blackwells to run Blackwells Department Store, said for businesses in the town "it's hard graft but people are still making it work".

The store was still getting good local support and support from the wider area. The residents of new subdivisions in the area would be a new market.

Blackwells had done the drapes and carpets for quite a few homes at the Silverstream development, he said.

At A Glance:

10,400 residential population of Kaiapoi

1000 homes red-zoned after the earthquakes

694 businesses in Kaiapoi in 2012

2280 employees

New subdivisions near Kaiapoi:

Silverstream - more than 1100 sections

Sovereign Palms - more than 880 sections

Ruby Views - about 750 sections

- The Press

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