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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sumner Like a Ghost Town

Sumner village 'like a ghost town' after earthquake

By Amanda Cropp
8:45 AM Thursday Mar 3, 2011
 
 
Above: Redcliffs.  Homes sit on the edge of the cliff after its face has fallen.
 
Sumner village is like a ghost town with only a handful of businesses open and many buildings cordoned off following last week's earthquake, creating some daunting challenges for local small business owners.

The seaside suburb about 12km from central Christchurch has more than 20 cafes and eateries, but none of them will reopen until water is restored.

When that happens they may have to rely heavily on local custom because despite the current sweltering nor west' conditions, beaches normally popular with swimmers and surfers remain closed as the city's sewers are emptied into the sea.

Businesses have also been affected by concern about stability of the cliffs between Shag Rock and Clifton Hill, and on Monday the main road in to Sumner was closed altogether while geo tech experts assessed cracks in the hillside above where homes have been evacuated.
Staffing has also been an issue.

Pharmacy owner Yolan Collins says she was dragged out of retirement to get the pharmacy back on its feet.

Sumner Supervalue is the only supermarket open for about 15 kilometres and initially struggled to find sufficient staff as many of its part time student workers had joined the exodus of Christchurch residents keen to escape quake damaged homes and the constant aftershocks.

But lack of essential services such as water and sewage reticulation is probably having the biggest impact.
Glenn Michael owns both the Club Bazaar pizzeria and the Headless Mexican restaurant, and although he has heard on the grapevine that running water is two or three weeks away "I'm working on five or six weeks," so he is grateful for the government subsidy that will cover staff wages.

"Once we get water we'll have the business up and running and we'll slide as many staff back in as we can."

After the September quake Michael spent more than $85,000 repairing Club Bazaar which occupies an historic brick building that was once the town's pharmacy. He says the hoops they had to jump through to get the work done were a nightmare, but without the bracing and strengthening measures, the old building would almost certainly have collapsed, taking out the chemist shop and bookshop on either side leaving a gaping hole in the village street scape.

His concern now is to find out whether the February 22 quake is considered a "new event" because if not, he fears insurance companies may refuse to pay out on the damage it caused.

Like a number of other Sumner business owners, bookshop owner Tim Hobbs had his business on the market prior to the latest quake. "It's still for sale. I'd had interest from a party in Rotorua, but I haven't contacted him since (the quake) because I've had other things on my mind."

Even if he does manage to sell Hobbs is determined to stay in Christchurch. "You have a choice, you can be a scaredy cat and say "I'm not going to stay, or you can say 'I'm part of the rebuilding process.' I'm the latter. I was born in Christchurch and maybe I'll die here."

Around the corner at The Rainbow Shop owner Mat Spiertz needed to clean up his stock of rocks, crystals and tie died T-shirts, but by 2.45 pm I was the first person to walk in the door all day.

Spiertz opened the business six months ago and admits the future is looking bleak, especially with the drop in day trippers. "If I have to keep paying rent I don't think I can keep going. I hope once the cafes open up a few more people will come. "

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