Earthquakes provide unexpected boost for businesses along new route

Murchison Tea Rooms, four Square Supermarket on the main road through Murchison.
Marion van Dijk

Murchison Tea Rooms, four Square Supermarket on the main road through Murchison.

 Businesses along State Highways 6 and 63 have been rushed off their feet with an influx of traffic after State Highway 1 was closed due to damage from Monday's earthquake.

Rivers Cafe owner Jude Alfeld said the amount of traffic coming through the town of Murchison, south of Nelson, was double the usual for this time of year.

"Everywhere is really busy, we're all flat out. It's brilliant for business but really sad for Kaikoura." 

State Highway 1 was previously the main arterial road and rail link between Christchurch and Picton.

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Monday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake tore the highway apart, blocking it with slips and landslides.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said it would take months before that part of the road or rail network would be reopened.

"SH1 from Seddon to Cheviot is in an incredibly bad way."

A slip south of Kaikoura on SH1 following Monday's earthquake.

A slip south of Kaikoura on SH1 following Monday's earthquake.

Finance Minister Bill English said disruption to the route would be the earthquake's biggest impact on the economy. 

Heavy commercial vehicles accounted for 16 to 20 per cent of traffic for the rural sections of the highway.

Mobil Murchison employee Leanne Ealam said it felt like the busy summer months had come early with the number of trucks and vehicles passing through town.

A arge landslide south of Kaikoura blocks State Highway 1.

A arge landslide south of Kaikoura blocks State Highway 1.

"It has a big impact, the whole community is very busy. This is going to last for quite a long time until those roads are sorted."

She said the petrol station had a good supply of fuel coming in regularly and wasn't worried about running out. 

Murchison Four Square owner Liz Hocking said the town was a "great place to visit" so the extra traffic was not a bad thing. 

Clinker Cafe in St Arnaud.

Clinker Cafe in St Arnaud.

"It's sad how it came about but it's good for business.

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"We have a good busy summer at the best of times so it's just ramping up."

She said the supermarket  had been running low on bread in the days following the quake but were stocked up again now.

Over in St Arnaud, Clinker Cafe duty manager Izy Wanstall said the influx of traffic, especially heavy trucks, was "horrendous". 

"Last night I counted 35 trucks in an hour. They also come through in the early hours of the morning, rumbling through - and you think it's an earthquake again."

She said as many as 300 to 400 heavy trucks were coming through St Arnaud a day now as well as other vehicles. 

"We've got a lot of traffic coming through and a lot more people stopping.

"Everybody right through to Murchison are really over-inundated with people."

She said she would welcome State Highway 63 becoming the "new State Highway 1".

"It would be pretty good for business, it would bring through a lot more traffic."

​At Springs Junction, Gas Lewis Pass manager Steve Templeton said they had a good supply of gas and products coming through every day..

"Summer here is always busy but it's ridiculous this year. There are definitely more trucks by miles.

"It's fantastic for us but pretty bad for everybody else."

KiwiRail and other freight companies have been discussing a sea link between Wellington and Christchurch as an alternative.

KiwiRail general manager asset services Todd Moyle said they were investigating the technical viability of and capacity at Lyttelton Port in Christchurch.

"We hope to be in a position by the end of the week to see whether it's feasible or not."

In the meantime, Port Nelson acting CEO Matt McDonald said Wellington Port wasn't able to load or unload containers so they were diverting them to Nelson Port.

"We're receiving additional vessels and additional cargo in the port. We're operating at full capacity at the moment."

McDonald said they're expecting to find out in the next several days exactly how long the repairs to infrastructure in Wellington are likely to take.

 - Stuff

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