‘Another challenging couple of weeks’ for businesses as Brynderwyns reopening delayed

A Northland business owner says it was horrific to see yet another slip on the Brynderwyn hills, just weeks away from when it was supposed to re-open.

The key gateway to Northland was damaged in Cyclone Gabrielle last year, and had been closed for repairs since mid February this year.

But on Tuesday, a huge amount of one of the hills fell away in a slip, delaying the repairs for a number of weeks.

Steve O’Shea runs the Aqua restaurant & bar in Whangārei, and said watching the footage of the slip was pretty horrific.

“I think everyone’s seen that particular footage. It’s disappointing, but it kind of is what it is. It’s happened – we can’t go backwards, we need to move forwards, it’s going to be another challenging couple of weeks.”

O’shea said his business relied on tourism and had taken a hit while the Brynderwyns were closed.

“There has been a drop off of course. Being part of the Hundertwasser arts centre, a lot of our visitors are from Auckland and from South of Auckland as well. So we’re not getting that level of trade coming through. But we’ve been extremely lucky here… we have a lot of local support.”

Steve O'Shea, co-owner of Aqua restaurant and bar.

In the meantime, visitors who wanted to head to Whangārei or beyond had to take the scenic route along the coast through Waipu Cove, adding another 45 minutes to the trip from Auckland.

Northland Chamber of Commerce president Tim Robinson said the business community was worried that the detour would put visitors off.

“The risk for us right now is that we’ll see that taper off quite dramatically. Because people have gone ‘if the roads going to be closed now for another 4 weeks plus, we’ve had our trip up, that’s great – we’ll wait until it re-opens again’.”

Robinson said the detour had also put some truck drivers off, which had been another blow for business.

“Some of them have just simply nutted it out, some of them have said we’re not going to come through until we can actually get the regular route re-established. Because the incremental cost for them, if they’re on fixed price contracts, it’s actually not economical for them to bring loads up here.”

Though when it came to the long term future of the road, Robinson and other business owners were clear about what needed to be done.

“It’s a simple answer, it’s a four lane express way. It’s interesting, because there was an exercise done just recently through the Northland Corporate Group, and all the businesses that responded, unanimously said that their biggest single gamechanger was a four lane expressway.”

The Brynderwyns closure had not been bad news for everyone though.

With Waipu Cove temporarily on the main drag, business was booming at the Cove Cafe.

“Because people haven’t been out this way before, they’re like ‘Oh wow this is beautiful’ and then they see a carpark and they’re like ‘Let’s stop’ and then they see us and they’re like ‘Let’s have lunch’,” manager Shavaun Paniora said.

She was hoping they had earned some permanent new customers.

Shavaun Paniora, manager at The Cove Cafe.

“I think once the Brynderwyns opens, we could drop off again. But it’s good to see that people who have stopped here and have never been here, we could possibly be a destination for them in the next coming summer seasons,” Paniora said.

But 10 minutes up the road in Waipu Town, owner of Industry Vintage, Andrew Riley, said most of the de-tourists turned off just before his shop.

“There’s quite a lot of traffic, just basically going around the corner which is only about 100 metres away from where my shop is.”

Riley, and many other business owners in Northland, were hoping for a return to normal on the roads as soon as possible.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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