Earthquakes ruin 'golden summer' for Kaikōura eateries

11:31 am on 22 November 2016

The Kaikōura earthquake has robbed the town's restaurants of a long-awaited golden summer.

A yellow sticker warns of damage at Adelphi Hotel in Kaikōura.

A yellow sticker warns of damage at Adelphi Hotel Bar & Restaurant in Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The 7.8 magnitude quake, which struck just after midnight eight days ago has cut off the tourist town and sent most of the visitors away.

View RNZ's full coverage of the earthquakes here.

The town is buzzing with helicopters, but none of them are bringing in tourists, the town's lifeblood.

In a town of 50 food businesses, only three or four were still open - including two pubs and a fish and chip shop.

In the middle of the main street, Richard Allan is standing in the doorway of his restaurant Zephyr thinking about how the summer might have been.

Mr Allan's building is fine, but he will be unable to open for at least a couple of weeks because there is no water or working sewerage.

Zephyr restaurant owner in Kaikōura Richard Allan was only open for nine days this summer before the quake hit.

Zephyr restaurant owner in Kaikōura Richard Allan. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Mr Allan's restaurant was only open for nine days this summer when the quake struck.

"We were off with a hiss and a roar and everything was good. It exceeded our expectations for the first week's trading. It was only going to go up from there," Mr Allan said.

After some hard years, it was meant to be one to celebrate, with all the big businesses in town booked to the hilt and plenty of forward bookings in his restaurant.

"It was going to be the golden summer."

A yellow-stickered main street bar.

A yellow-stickered main street bar. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The chippie's part-owner Arlene Brown said that before the quake, they had been planning to take on extra staff, but now the challenge would be just finding creative ways to survive.

Mrs Brown said they had just re-opened the shop because they were hearing the demand from locals to be fed.

"We were waiting for us to be ready - [it's a] new week, gotta go on, gotta progress, gotta push forward," she said.

Motellier Kathy Christian said the quake's timing could not have been worse for them.

She said everything rested on when the roads would re-open.

"That's the unknown", Mrs Christian said, "when will we get back to normality, and will it be normality?"

Many people would be frightened and stay away, she said, although she thought a lot of her New Zealand customers would come back soon.

"They are from Christchurch and they are used to earthquakes, big time."

The Restaurant Association sent three representatives yesterday for a meeting to advise owners on how to survive the post-quake period.

Canterbury President of the Restaurant Association Sam Crofskey, and its chief executive Marissa Bidois.

Canterbury President of the Restaurant Association Sam Crofskey, and its chief executive Marissa Bidois. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Its Canterbury president Sam Crofskey, who lost his house and business to the Christchurch earthquakes five years ago, said it brought it all back for him but in a new way.

"Unlike downtown Christchurch, Kaikōura looks okay, but it is cut off like an island here. So their red zone fence is these slips over State Highway 1," says Mr Crofskey.

Mr Crofskey said the quake was a cruel blow.

Kaikōura had already been suffering from the spin-off effects of the Canterbury quakes because people were avoiding Christchurch and going inland, he said.

"Kaikōura has faced it tough for a long time, so a lot of people were talking about this being their season."

"This was going to be the golden year for Kaikōura, but it's just been mercilessly robbed," he said.

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