Kaikoura businesses prepare for slow winter

Kaikoura businesses are preparing for a slow winter.
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Kaikoura businesses are preparing for a slow winter.

Kaikoura business owners are worried about the prospect of a slow winter following a slow summer.

Still cut off from the north after the November 14 earthquake, the tourist town may face more road closures to the south as the weather gets worse.

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby said Kaikoura noticed the drop-off in traffic numbers when the roads closed.

The inland road near Whales Back closed last week after Cyclone Debbie brought heavy rain.
PIPPA BROWN/FAIRFAX NZ

The inland road near Whales Back closed last week after Cyclone Debbie brought heavy rain.

He said people in town understood why it happened, but were concerned about the situation.  

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Though numbers were "well down" and some people were "really hurting" in town, Kaikoura was still open for business, Ormsby said.

Helicopters continue to work to clear slips on State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Helicopters continue to work to clear slips on State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura.

Pot Belly Cafe owner Billy Speirs described the situation as "crappy".

"The numbers are starting to go down with the tourists," he said.

"I think the general feeling is a bit of doom and gloom, and I think the early winter doesn't really help either."

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby.
EMMA DANGERFIELD/FAIRFAX NZ

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby.

The government's wage subsidy for Kaikoura businesses is due to end on April 30, and Spiers said businesses were facing bills, insurance payments, and rates without their normal income.

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"And because we all had a good season last year, you know what comes next? The tax. That will cripple businesses."

Speirs said he wasn't yet considering closing the business, but he suspected others might have to.

Pot Belly Bakery & Cafe owner Billy Speirs.
JAMIE SMALL/FAIRFAX NZ

Pot Belly Bakery & Cafe owner Billy Speirs.

Kaikoura recovery manager Danny Smith said he thought the recent weather and road closures "might be just starting to hit home a wee bit".

"It really has made the businesses focus a little bit harder on how they're going to get through the winter."

He said businesses were basically entering their third winter in a row, and was "quite a struggle" when 75 per cent of customers had disappeared.

Kaikoura District Council earthquake recovery manager Danny Smith
PIPPA BROWN/FAIRFAX NZ

Kaikoura District Council earthquake recovery manager Danny Smith

"There's no hiding the fact that we just urgently need that road open to the north."

However, Smith said the morale of the town was pretty high.

"The majority of the people are taking the attitude we're not going to let this bloody thing beat us."

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton.
Supplied

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton.

Encounter Kaikoura co-owner Dennis Buurman said winter was "always a thought in the back of our minds".

"Traditionally the winter is a lot quieter, and on top of that with the road closure, I think it's going to be a lot more stressful this winter, making it through, than we've ever experienced."

Buurman said the roads closing was a "great inconvenience" but said some of the frustrations were because signs indicating the status of the road were often wrong.

Buurman said another concern was the reducing government support for quake-affected businesses.

"Business has been extremely hard hit by the earthquake and some are on the point of desperation, especially with winter coming on, so they need all the support they can get."

According to Niwa data, Kaikoura's January was uncharacteristically dry, but March was much wetter than normal, with 73mm and 11 rainy days.

Since reopening for daytime hours on December 21, State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura has been closed for all or part of 28 days for planned or emergency work.

The inland road has only closed twice since it opened on December 19. Both of those closures were at the same time as SH1 closures.

New Zealand Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said the inland route had been "absolutely fantastic".

He said extreme circumstances had closed it recently.

"Even though we closed the road for 24 hours, when the flood waters reduced we were able to open that up pretty much straight away."

Mutton said State Highway 1 south remained "fragile".

The New Zealand transport Agency (NZTA) has been doing emergency stabilisation work near the Paratitahi Tunnels.

In the coming weeks NZTA hopes to remedy the main issue with the inland route to Kaikoura, a slip at Whale's Back near Lyford.

Contractors will pin 100 rock bolts into the slip, then reseal the road.

 - Stuff

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