Manukau Courier : January 20th 2011
www.manukaucourier.co.nz Thursday, January 20, 2011 GET THE FULL MIT EXPERIENCE Course info • Explore the campus • Enrolment Plus FREE concert with J Williams • Nesian Mystik • DJae09 JANUARY From 10am until 2pm Saturday 22 January, Manukau Institute of Technology, North Campus, Gate 12, Otara Road 0800 62 62 52 • www.manukau.ac.nz 7689 MIT00148 Hurting but hopeful We're back: Relieved the St George St rail bridge is open again but angry at the downturn its closure has caused Old Papatoetoe retailers are, from left: New World owner Max McDermid, business association chairman Watchman Rivers, town centre manager Donna Lee and Bookwormz owner Marie Williams. Photo: KAREN MANGNALL By KAREN MANGNALL ANGRY retailers are relieved to see the end of a three-week shutdown of Old Papatoetoe s railway bridges. The closure left empty streets, dismal Christmas sales, staff laid off and some smaller shops facing the prospect of going to the wall . The St George St rail bridge re- opened on Monday after it and the Bridge St bridge were closed on Boxing Day as part of KiwiRail s rail electrification project. Old Papatoetoe retailers now try- ing to entice back customers want help from KiwiRail and the Auck- land Council, a major mainstreet landlord, who they say failed com- pletely to anticipate the impact of closing both bridges at once. KiwiRail s name is now mud, Business Improvement District chairman Watchman Rivers says. They put no thought into the impact of closing two bridges at once and the impact on retail busi- nesses in Old Papatoetoe and Puhinui Rd. All 120 of the association s retailers have suffered, with some reporting turnover down as much as 80 percent. A lot of people have laid off staff until business picks up again. Having both bridges closed at once has had a huge impact on all businesses, town centre manager Donna Lee says. One day I came down and there were no cars in the street. I ve never seen anything like that. KiwiRail has helped with adver- tising, leaflet drops, sponsoring a pre-Christmas market day and run- ning a shoppers bus. It s also offered $1000 for the association s February promotion but Ms Lee says that isn t enough. My appeal to shoppers is come back and support Old Papatoetoe. One of the worst-hit businesses is New World. Owner-operator Max McDermid says turnover has been down hugely . I ve had to put people on leave because we re not as busy as we would normally expect to be. He s confident business will return when the bridges reopen. It has hurt us but it had to hap- pen and we re pleased it s come to an end. Business has been diabolical for Bookwormz owner Marie Williams, the worst in her seven years there. Closing both bridges literally shut the town down , cutting retailers off from around three- quarters of their customers during the busiest trading period. Her turnover is down by up to 60 percent and other retailers suffered much worse, she says. We expected to have a good Christmas but there was nothing, no Christmas rush at all. Smaller retailers will really struggle to rebound, Ms Williams says. There s no bounce-back if people have already spent their money elsewhere. Spice World foodmarket owner Sub Singh doesn t know if he can recover. I was not able to pay last month s rent and bills are overdue, he says. He fears some of his customers might be lost for good. It s a concern shared by Papa- toetoe Local Board chairman John McCracken, who s urging people to come back and support our retailers . Shopkeepers are hurting through no fault of their own and deserve help from KiwiRail and the council, Mr McCracken says. KiwiRail knows closing both bridges caused a lot of disruption for retailers, electrification project director Murray Hood says. But there isn t a hell of a lot we can do other than what we have done. KiwiRail can t throw money at individual retailers because it s public funds, he says. But we try to do our best to miti- gate that disruption. KiwiRail made every effort to temporarily reopen St George St for pre-Christmas shopping as well as helping with advertising, flyers, promotions sponsorship and a shoppers shuttle. The bridges had to be closed sim- ultaneously from Boxing Day for rebuilding because that s the only time the southern line could be shut down to freight, Mr Hood says. Mayor Len Brown is promising to look at what can be done to help the retailers. Getting new rail bridges was a completely unavoidable short- term pain for the longer-term gains from electric trains, Mr Brown says. Bridge St is expected to reopen on January 27.
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