Christchurch Earthquake 2011 – Day 29.

Tuesday 22nd March 2011 – Day 29.

Ruth had to go to a meeting in Merivale at midday. I drove her over and, as she was going to take two hours, I had the opportunity to do a few things by myself. I drove down to the Verkerk’s Factory Shop and bought a few packets of their excellent bacon, then made my way around to the Northlands Mall.

It was huge, and bustling with shoppers and children in school uniforms. I had to drive around a while just to find a car park. The shops were doing a good trade, mostly. A place that offered shiatsu massage was not exactly bursting at the seams, but most of the others – Warehouse, Pak’n’Save, Whitcoulls, various chain stores – were humming. Outside, while there was considerable damage to shops in the wider shopping area, and whole rows of premises were fenced off, there seemed to be plenty of life. Traffic along Papanui road was bumper to bumper, and I carefully planned my route so as to take right hand turns at controlled intersections otherwise I would have been experiencing long delays. There was no gridlock, and traffic was moving continually, but it was very busy on the road.

Merivale Mall, likewise, was alive with shoppers, with the supermarket and associated shops trading steadily. The shops along Papanui Road, as I have said elsewhere, had sustained heavy damage, but there were plenty of others still operating. Even the Brewer’s Arms, where I stopped for pint before collecting Ruth at 2:00 p.m. had a healthy little crop of loungers. The car park behind the Mall was almost full, and as at Northlands, I had some difficulty in even finding a space.

The moral of all this? The Christchurch economy is alive and well and living in the suburbs. The newer shopping malls are going to thrive, and any new shopping precincts will be built in such a way as to ride on their success. Is anyone going to go into the central City to shop? I doubt it, and the longer the Civil Defence Controller keeps people out of the City, the less likely will it be that ordinary trade will resume there. People will quickly become more and more used to shopping and doing business in the suburbs, and new routines will be built up around suburban shopping and activity as opposed to that of the central City.

The main hotels are in the centre, and the main banks and business houses, as well as Government departments, will likewise remain there, so there will always be people there. A concentration of pubs and cafés will quickly return to cater to the civil servants, bankers, solicitors and others, and to the tourists staying at the main hotels, but normal retail trading? I really do not know. Ballantynes, God Bless them, have vowed to rebuild and return to central City trading, and they will. They may well provide a core about which a new retail area can coalesce, but this is going to have to be very, very carefully thought through, and will require very careful nurturing. Can it be done? I do not know, but if it is done, it is going to take a very long time, and whatever it is when it finally comes it is going to be nothing like it was before.

To be continued….

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