Opinion: Whale of an economic problem in Kaikoura

Nin's Bin, a food cart in north Canterbury (AAP)
Nin's Bin, a food cart in north Canterbury (AAP)

Millions of tourist dollars were evacuated out of Kaikoura last week. 

And from what I saw over the past two days, thousands of people are cancelling millions of dollars' worth of bookings for the months ahead. 

Yes, people are trying to stay positive, but it's not as simple as that. Local businesses will be economically shattered by this earthquake. They are quite realistic about that too. 

They earn their money over summer, and that gets them through the winter. 

More than 1500 tourists were in town before the quake; fewer than 20 are left. It's now resembling a ghost town run by people in hi-vis vests. 

Eve Parkin runs the local holiday camp - thousands of people have cancelled their bookings. She has made just $6 in the past week. She has no idea how she will get through the summer, let alone the winter. 

The whales have returned, but the boats can't get out until the marina is dredged. 

Kaikoura will return to normal, but I can't see it happening until next summer. And before that, the Government must throw everything at this recovery. 

These seasonal businesses need help and we should be ready to provide that. 

Tourism bosses and the Government must relaunch Kaikoura to the country and the world before next summer. It will need a huge advertising campaign. 

That's the least we can do. It's a very special and unique part of our tourism story - we must make sure we get Kaikoura back on its feet urgently, then we must tell the world. 

The whales are back and waiting for the humans to return. Let's get on with it. 

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