The one year anniversary since the February earthquake is drawing closer. It struck Canterbury, changing our lives and destroying our CBD. As we begin to rebuild and recover, Kayte John talks industries about the devastating event and how they are moving forward.
Canterbury Restaurant Association head and owner of Café Valentino
“The February earthquake was a life changing event for many hospitality industry operators. The past two years had not been great and many were struggling to overcome the lingering effects of the September quake.
“However, there was light at the end of the tunnel, the promise of Rugby World Cup crowds, an improving economy, things might just be getting better – then February 22 hit.
“For many life has become an ongoing battle with insurance companies, finding new premises and trying to recreate accounting records. Some were under-insured, others have been battling with insurance companies over contentious ‘proof of ownership’ clauses in policies. Others have accepted pay outs for much less than the equipment replacement value just to get on with life.
“For those not located in the central city however, it has been a life changing event in a different way – business has boomed. Hospitality operations that had been struggling to make ends meet were suddenly struggling to cope with the increased trade. And as displaced city operators sought to buy cash flow businesses so the asking price of those businesses has tripled or quadrupled in some cases.
“Shipping container bars have sprung up as desperate punters have looked for somewhere to replace their lost drinking spots. Everyone has a view on the next ‘hot’ suburb, will it be Addington or will it be Sydenham?
“The future for many though remains uncertain. Restaurants have always sought the warmth and charm of character buildings; there are now few of those left. There is some uncertainty about who will re-open in the central city and more importantly when.”
New Zealand Retailers Association Southern Region manager
“After the February 22 earthquake we decided to help the retailers by implementing no charge whatsoever – it was important to get them back on their feet.
“The first two weeks in April we interviewed 98 retailers who had been affected by earthquake, to see where they were going. We found out people were concerned about their lease – getting their stock out of red zone and whether staff would have a job to come back to.
“The New Zealand Retailers Association organised three large meetings covering all those aspects and more. We spoke to 30 to 40 people in the retail industry, working with them individually about whether they should move, quit, and sell their business or whether there was the opportunity to carry on. We found the majority of people retired and sold their business.
“We have seen some tremendous changes and challenges in Christchurch and we are still helping retailers through every possible angle. Since the Restart of Cashel Mall the atmosphere has clearly improved and they are all extremely busy.
“The businesses that have shifted out of town and reopened have extended their hours to keep up with the demand. Christchurch malls around the city have been astronomically busy, but without our city this was bound to happen. Areas such as Rangiora and Ashburton have doubled in population, the retail side in the areas are thriving.”
Registered Master Builders Federation CEO
“While the rebuild residential area is taking place the commercial inner-city rebuild may not begin until later this year and into 2013. As construction is currently at the lowest point it has been at living memory, the rebuild will mean sweet relief for builders.
“In six months time it will be busier, although we have thought this for a while. And its not just tradestaff that may be needed but professional engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, foreman, project managers a range of jobs really. Builders will be greatly needed for the next 10 years.
“International trades people are being recruited to work on the rebuild, which I am not entirely happy about. I appreciate there will be a need to import expertise and that it takes time, but the first port of call must be the existing skillbase in Christchurch, then the South Island, then New Zealand before we look offshore.
“I would really like to see the work going to local builders first they are the ones struggling the most, they need the ability to get back on their feet. They are in Christchurch for the long haul and all efforts must go into
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive
“The effects of February’s quake on Canterbury’s tourism industry have been far-reaching. The images of destruction that flashed around the world in the days immediately following the quake now define some people’s perceptions of Christchurch and we have to work hard to convince markets that Christchurch and Canterbury are still worth visiting.
“Ninety percent of Christchurch’s key visitor attractions are welcoming visitors and although two-thirds of our hotels were either damaged or in the red zone, there are still 8,400 commercial beds available in the city.
“Repairing our major tourism assets is going to take time. Our Convention Centre has been damaged beyond repair and some of our other major event and conferencing facilities, including AMI Stadium.
“On the plus side we’ve managed to find a temporary new home for our i-SITE Visitor Centre and this year a number of central city hotels will re-open. Projects like the Restart in Cashel Mall has brought life and vitality back into the heart of the city and high profile events like the BMW New Zealand Golf Open and the upcoming Ellerslie International Flower Show are helping show the world Christchurch is back on its feet.”
Where are we now?
– Businesses that may have been struggling in suburbs are now busy
– Heightened sense of what is important
– Become a resilient nation
– Creative innovation of the many businesses that have re-opened in shipping containers
– The chance to become a bigger and better city with safer buildings
– Student Amy, community support groups and people coming together to support one another
– The traffic and condition of the majority of our roads
– Individuals and organisations exploiting Christchurch’s vulnerability for personal gain
– Loss of life, on-going trauma and loss of livelihoods
– Losing iconic and historic buildings
– Communities and suburbs remain badly damaged