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As we approach the first anniversary of the Kaikoura quake, the owners of The Cheviot Tea Rooms, Lyn and Phil Turner, reflect on what the past year has meant for their business.
The immediate days and weeks post-quake were filled with uncertainty, recalls Lyn. Trade was very varied with some busy days and some very quiet days, but it was also new and unpredictable.
“We really had no idea how this was going to go” she says candidly.
As a long-standing business with long-term local staff, one of their main concerns was looking after their employees. So when they heard about the Earthquake Support Subsidy the government was making available to businesses in the area they applied for it.
Coupled with reduced hours and some employees moving on for non-quake related reasons, it meant Lyn and Phil were able to retain all their staff and continue paying them. “Our staff are all local and they have stuck with us through this, which we’re really grateful for” says Lyn.
But, the closed road and erratic trading patterns meant that turnover in the business was around half that it had been in the same period the previous year. Whilst overheads such as insurance, rates and power stayed the same.
When the initial subsidy finished on 30th April this year Lyn and Phil went onto apply for a recovery grant to help them through this challenging period. They attended a meeting of business owners, Council grant administrators and Enterprise North Canterbury which gave them a good outline of what would be required to apply.
The accounts for the last business year were the most difficult part of the application process says Lyn. “Accountants preparing accounts for the 31st March end of year take some time. A financial budget made us realise that it was not possible to survive as a business without some support”.
The recovery grant has been helpful but business continues to be a struggle particularly as the road is only open a few days each week. For the Turners the closed days reduce their turnover by around half. The road closure has also made them feel cut-off and distanced from the rest of the world says Lyn.
One bright spot has been occasional events in the area. “We had the Kaikoura races the other day” says Lyn, “so there were people coming through town and it just gave us that purpose to opening the door, it gave us and the staff a motivation. The best thing has been to have an event going on”.
As for the future Lyn and Phil are stoic. “This year has been the longest in our lives, as if time has stopped and the rest of the country has moved on. But you have to carry on, you can’t just roll over”.