Six Months Since Kaikoura Earthquake and Businesses are Desperate for Visitors. Never Fear, Compass is on the Way – Updated

“More could be done” – the headline from the Kaikoura Star

It has been six months since the Kaikoura earthquake but businesses are a long way from recovering in the remote South Island township, and tourism operators are worried because they say that holidaymakers have yet to return.

Some Kaikoura businesses are said to be ‘within 6-8 weeks of collapse‘ due to dwindling visitor numbers, according to an advocacy group set up to help traders and retailers impacted by the November earthquake.

Plenty of room at the inn. The Sierra Beachfront Motel. Each room features a microwave, fridge, kettle and dining table…

Stephanie Thompson, owner of the Kaikoura Four Square and committee member of the 45 strong Kaikoura Retail and Trade Association, says businesses are facing collapse. Meanwhile, Jo James, who owns the Sierra Beachfront Motel with her partner Brad, says its been over a month since she had a new booking. Ms Jones says the closure of the highway north is a big roadblock, and the intermittent accessibility of the highway south is putting tourists off as they don’t like driving the inland road (even the locals don’t enjoy that).

Visitors have had to take the alternative inland route to the town since heavy rain over Easter weekend brought fresh slips down onto State Highway 1 south of Kaikōura, forcing its closure. The road north of the town is not expected to re-open until the end of this year…” source

Furthermore, the town’s accommodation providers say they would’ve benefited from providing lodgings to some of the workers brought in to the township to repair the highways.

British immigrant Myra McLelland, who used to work in IT, arrived in New Zealand in 2015. She runs Lavendyl lavender farm and Dylan’s Country Cottages with her sons Alasdair and Douglas. Myra says visitor numbers are at “dire levels”. Her income is down around 80% and traders are being pushed to their limits, with much frustration in the town.

To add insult to injury, it looks as if the local council and MP may not be doing as much as they should to support local businesses, according to a Radio New Zealand report:

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…

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…

It appears one of the reasons why Stuart Smith doesn’t have much sympathy for the locals is because the previous summer had been such a good one, they don’t have the smarts to deal with a bad one. Of course, not having the road to the township open until at least the end of the year isn’t going to help matters at all…

Smith said

“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.”

Listen here to the Radio NZ interview

Smith is ‘out of touch’ and ‘invisible

Stuart Smith has been criticised by some for being out of touch (some even think that Janette Walker is the MP for Kaikoura) and invisible (local business people think his name is Steven, rather than Stuart, because they’ve never met him).

One has to ask, where is all the earthquake support actually going then if local businesses are considering closing their doors for good?

Kaikoura, Meet Compass

Meanwhile, one business doing rather well out of the Kaikoura rebuild is the controversial company Compass. They’ve just won a multi-million dollar contract to cater for reconstruction workers lodged in a shanty town ‘temporary camp’ in the township, paradoxically while local accommodation providers go out of business over the winter. It appears that even the local food shops are to be denied the extra trade?

Is joined-up thinking that much of a problem in New Zealand, or is this just a case of the government taking care of its own like it did in Christchurch?

Turbo Staff is said to be “pouring” 200 people into the area for Kaikoura jobs…

Workers’ Camp

Seventy five, 4 bedroomed units are to be hauled over from Australia to form an allegedly temporary ‘village’ on the junction of Mt Fyffe and Ludstone Roads, metres from the local high school. More than 300 workers will live there while they “frantically” try to get the critical Kaikoura coastal route opened by the year end.


a). frantic in New Zealand doesn’t have quite the same meaning as it does elsewhere in the world;  and

b). its six years since Christchurch suffered a lesser earthquake than Kaikoura and work won’t finish there for at least another four years. (Remember how the locals complained about Irish workers and their fangled first-world ways?)

Meanwhile, Winston Peters wants workers to pull their fingers out

Serving ‘slop

Last year, hundreds of people protested outside Dunedin Hospital after Southern District Health Board began outsourcing hospital meals through Compass Group. Patients called the food “slop”, prompting a stream of complaints, and the doctors’ association threatened to sue the SDHB over the food quality.

And in March this year, Canterbury District Health Board announced it will not renew its contract with Compass Group, which had provided meals since 2004. Compass also holds a catering contract with the New Zealand Defence Force…

Once operational, the NCTIR Accommodation Village will be used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a range of staff working for NCTIR across projects to reopen the transport corridor. During a typical day, the majority of workers will leave the site between 5.30am and 7am and return between 6pm and 8pm, NZTA said.

Workers using the village will be given an information booklet on “the expectations of driving and vehicle use in the community”, especially around the school.

In desperate need. Kaikoura High School looks like it could do with some of the money that’s going to be spent on the nearby ‘temporary workers village’

It’s like the Klondike gold rush all over again, except this time round only a select few get the chance to become rich, while the people who built-up the town’s reputation as a tourism destination face bankruptcy.

It remains to be seen if Kaikoura gets its own Long Branch saloon to look after those hungry and thirsty workers, and some good time gals…does this sound like the sort of place you’d want to take a family vacation any time in the next 18 months or so?

No wonder the locals are worried.


Kaikoura ‘Earthquake Boss’ Duncan Gibb To Quit After Just Months in the Job – An Australian expert who was head hunted to lead the (allegedly) $2 billion rebuild of damaged Kaikoura earthquake infrastructure is to quit his job after less than six months… read on

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One thought on “Six Months Since Kaikoura Earthquake and Businesses are Desperate for Visitors. Never Fear, Compass is on the Way – Updated

  1. Nice to see they are finally getting around to getting the workers into Kaikoura that the town desperately needs. Taking six months to do this is a disgrace though. This should have happened within 3-4 weeks of the quakes happening with high levels of coordination and maximum support of local businesses.

    Still, it’s pretty typical of NZ timeframes where it is necessary to multiple all time estimates by at least a factor of five.

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