12 May 2017

Kaikoura businesses' desperate plea for help - and visitors

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 12 May 2017

Kaikōura businesses say the drop-off in visitors following the 7.8 earthquake in November has hurt them so much they'll be forced to lay people off and even close their doors for good.

On Sunday, it will be six months since the devastating quake - which brought down huge landslips on State Highway 1, blocking what had been the main route from Picton to Christchurch.

Tourism operators in the town told Checkpoint with John Campbell holiday-makers had not yet returned.

Dave Stanford, who runs The Lazy Shag backpackers and Topspot hostel, said the future for his businesses was looking grim.

"Having a 60-bed place open for two people - by the time you keep the lights ticking over and the whole place has got to be lit up and the whole place has got to be heated etc etc - you know, is it worth lighting a fire at night to burn a wheelbarrow full of wood for two people?"

Mr Stanford said he believed the local council and the local MP, Stuart Smith, could do more to support local businesses.

"He'll attend a meeting for the last 10 minutes and talk with any other MPs that are there and then he'll be gone - 'oh, I'm busy, busy' - I don't think he's listening much to what's happening here."

He said commercial accommodation providers were having to pay rates of two and a half times the usual, and while he had spoken to Mr Smith about three times he did not have much hope.

However, Mr Smith told Checkpoint one of the issues was that last summer had been a "phenomenal" tourist season and businesses were prepared for more good times, which had made it much harder for them.

"I'd love to be able to wave a magic wand and fix their immediate issues, which is getting the road open tomorrow - but that's unfortunately not possible."

He said there had been $17.5 million provided after the quake for 862 businesses in Kaikōura, Wellington, Marlborough and Hurunui.