Sumner struggling to stay afloat
Business owners and residents fear a dying Sumner village with shops closing and essential services slow to return. CECILE MEIER reports.
After the February 2011 earthquakes, Sumner businesses have worked together to encourage locals and tourists back to the area. Their effort has proved successful for hospitality outlets, but progress is slow and retailers are still struggling.
After a rough winter, Milou design shop, located near the supermarket, is pulling the plug.
Owner Lorelei Jenner says she is sad to close, but after two years struggling, she has had enough.
"Winter was very quiet. It's been really tough and I can't make a living out of it."
She says few people had visited Sumner during the construction of the causeway.
"There is not enough to attract people here."
Skout gifts owner Kaaren Robinson has been struggling as well, but she says she has not lost hope. She is preparing to move her shop into Milou's location next month, but says she is "absolutely petrified" about the future of her business. A lot of people come here for the beach, but few take their wallets with them to the shops, she says.
She says she hopes the street party coming up in March will bring people in Sumner.
"Eventually, people will come back."
Second-hand shop Chrissies' owner Chrissie Bailey is more positive.
"Ever since we opened the causeway again, it's been a bit busier. The roads are still a problem with all the shaking and the bumps and the pot-holes. And a lot of people are terrified to come around the cliffs.
Martine Marshall, Le Petit Hotel owner and active member of Sumner Business Association, says retailers risk going out of business as progress on the neighbourhood's rebuild is stalled.
"I've been positive for so long but now I'm so disappointed. We've been left with that dust and pile of gravel and rubbish for too long. It's been three years for goodness' sake!"
She says hospitality outlets are attracting tourists and locals, but she is worried about the loss of essential services and shops including a dairy, a library, churches, police, and community facilities.
"The place looks like a mess with the vacant sites. It's heartbreaking because we've worked so hard on attracting people to Sumner and it is such a nice place."
Clink restaurant & bar owner Rachael Lonsdale says Sumner's retail and services are "dwindling away".
"We've got a number of empty buildings that haven't been repaired or taken down and that isn't helping."
She says her business has been going well, but can not open for lunches during the week because of a lack of other attractions.
"At the moment there's nothing bringing people out here because there's so few shops; it's not creating that vibe."
The Christchurch City Council wants to help, but it will not happen anytime soon.
Urban design and regeneration manager Carolyn Ingles says the council has not forgotten Sumner. A $1.5 million street upgrade and the construction of community facilities are part of the council's three-year plan, she says.
The project team for the street upgrade will be put together in 2014-15, and construction will start in 2015-16, she says.
The council has agreed to rebuild a community facility, but the scale, nature and funding of the project still need to be decided.
Ingless says business reinstatement is a private issue.
"We can advocate with business owners, but we can't make business owners do anything."
She says a couple of resource consents have been granted for a property on Wakefield ave, but the owners have several years to start building.
GONE: Police, RSA, Library, Community centre/museum, Churches, Bookshop, Bank, Garage, Surf club, 3 restaurants, 1 backpackers, 1 fish and chip shop, 1 dairy, 1 furniture shop, 2 gift shops, 2 delis, 1 wine shop, 1 chocolate shop
STILL THERE: 2 doctors, 1 pharmacy, 1 physio, 8 restaurants, 5 coffee shops, 4 takeaways, 3 second-hand clothes shops, 2 gift shops, 2 pubs, 2 hairdressers, 1 cinema, 1 motel, 1 hotel, 1 garden shop/Post Shop, 1 surf shop, 1 casual clothes shop, 1 art shop, 1 DVD hire