Akaroa seeing harder times

SCENIC: Akaroa wharf is not always bustling with wealthy cruise ship passengers.
SCENIC: Akaroa wharf is not always bustling with wealthy cruise ship passengers.

With cruise ship tourists pouring in, stunning views and luxury baches, Akaroa looks like a millionaire's playground - but the figures tell a different story.

Cruise ships have divided the small Banks Peninsula town, which is struggling with high living costs and a demographic shift as poorer families displaced by the earthquakes move into the area.

The small holiday town is one of a few Christchurch suburbs that have become more deprived since 2006, according to new research mapping different levels of poverty across New Zealand.

Click here to view an interactive graphic on levels of deprivation across Christchurch.

NEW START: Cyndi O'Keefe moved from Woolston to Barry's Bay for a better life for her children.
NEW START: Cyndi O'Keefe moved from Woolston to Barry's Bay for a better life for her children.

Some business owners claim the arrival of cruise ships in the town since the earthquakes has harmed their takings. Hospitality businesses have profited, but other shops have struggled.


One shop owner said "businesses are bleeding".

Local welfare workers said many poor people displaced by the earthquakes had moved to the Banks Peninsula, but were struggling with higher living expenses.

An Akaroa business owner, who did not want to be named, said cruise ship tourists did not spend much money on anything except coffee and drinks.

"You are lucky to get $10 out of them. They don't spend," they said.

"The food and drinks places do pretty well, but most of the cruise travellers get on the coach to Christchurch. They don't spend much here.

"Businesses are bleeding. They are suffering in the summer when normally we would do quite well. Businesses are having to close.

"That means we can't afford to employ local people and so local people are missing out. It is very tough."

They said that small items had been stolen from their shop during the cruise ship season.

Cruise ships started mooring in Akaroa harbour rather after Lyttelton port was damaged in the 2011 earthquakes. Locals refer to cruise ship tourists as "newlyweds, well feds and nearly deads".

L'Hotel duty manager Abby O'Keefe said the cruise ships were an important source of income. The bistro is very close to the wharf where cruise ship tourists arrive in town.

"The cruise ships are a great business for us. It gets us through the winter. We have to make the most of it. There are mixed ideas about it in the town."

Akaroa Senior Constable Lyle Pryor said the influx of hospitality workers to service the cruise ships may have affected incomes.

"Maybe there has been an increase in the service industry over here, which brings the wages down.

"It is a lot of wealthy retirees, but the increase in cruise ships has led to an increase in hospitality which means lower salaries."

The impact of the economic changes on Akaroa are subtle. One shopkeeper said she was getting paid less than the person who did her job last year. The local community paper noted on the front page that a number of local businesses were on the market.

Cyndi O'Keefe moved to the Banks Peninsula about six months ago to escape the city and give her three children a countryside upbringing. She finds it an expensive place to live.

"The petrol is a bit of a killer. I feel like I am constantly filling up. It is worth it because it is such a beautiful place," she said.

She moved to a house in Barry's Bay as she felt Woolston was getting too rough for her children.

"Woolston was turning into a bit of a hood. There was quite a bit of crime stuff going on all the time over the other side of Ferry Rd. That girl who was found dead in the supermarket car park lived down the road from where we were.

"Ever since I had kids I wanted to bring them up somewhere in the countryside."

O'Keefe gets by with a part-time job at the Akaroa Four Square and the Sole Parent Support benefit.

Welfare worker Kerry Little, community coordinator for Heartland Akaroa, said the area had changed since the earthquakes.

"We had a few families come over after the earthquakes from a lower socio economic group, so that has made a change."

Click here for an interactive graphic detailing more about how we live in Christchurch.

The Press