How Linwood business owners are coping one year on from Christchurch mosque shooting

It's taken time, but a Christchurch man says his business is slowly recovering from last year's mosque shootings.

In the wake of the horror on March 15, Linwood Ave business owners struggled to get back on their feet. 

Shane Lilley's store Parklands Pawnbroker sat inside the police cordon set up on March 15 after seven people were killed next door at Linwood Mosque during the gunman's second attack.

The store was inside the police cordon and forced to shut for nearly two weeks. A lull in trading then kickstarted months of financial hardship. 

When Newshub last spoke to Lilley in July, he was borrowing $25,000 in a last-ditch effort to keep the shop he's owned for nearly two decades open. 

"The foot traffic was just non-existent," he says. "Especially while there was a high police presence in the area as well - people just weren't coming into the area. We borrowed money to survive."

Now things are starting to look up and fears are slowly fading of being forced into shutting up shop. 

But that recovery process was slow. He told Newshub it took nearly 12 months after March 15 to get back on track.

"It's almost back to normal," Lilley says. "We had to cut back, as many did, it was basically survival of the fittest."

Lilley was one of the lucky ones - two neighbouring businesses were forced to close.

"We were determined," he says. "You can do anything if you want it back enough."

Shane Lilley.
Shane Lilley. Photo credit: Newshub.

'People still ask about it'

Lilley says March 15 is still a topic of conversation with his customers every week. One year on from the attack, he says the Linwood community is still affected by that horrific day.

"It's in the back of a lot of people's minds," he tells Newshub. "[They're] a bit on edge and still apprehensive about coming in," he says. "There are definitely customers I haven't seen for a year that were regulars before."

But his loyal client-base, he says, is how the business was able to overcome the challenges.

"They stuck with us. A lot of them had to go to the opposition [while the store was closed] but they've come back."

The cordon in Linwood after the shooting.
The cordon in Linwood after the shooting. Photo credit: Newshub.

Others not so lucky

Last year, Lo TV Rentals' was facing closure and that was confirmed when Newshub visited recently - an empty building was all that remained.

"I've been here 18 years and it's part of what I do, so I'm really upset," employee Donna O'Malley said in July.

Trish Bailey was also forced to close 14 years after opening her business Natural Lines.  She closed her doors permanently in late July.

"It was very sad," she said at the time. "The circumstances made it happen." 

'Encouraging times ahead'

With two businesses closing and others on the road to recovery, a new shop has opened just three doors down from Lilley.

Hai Nguyen opened his dairy three months ago after he and his wife saw an opportunity. He says business has been slowly picking up and has been offered support by the Muslim community.

"The Muslim community comes [in] here and they are friendly," he tells Newshub.

"They ask me if I need help and [say] that they're willing to help."

Local MP Poto Williams says the Linwood community is much better connected one year on from the tragedy.

Outside Linwood Mosque in the days after the Christchurch shooting.
Outside Linwood Mosque in the days after the Christchurch shooting. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I believe that current Linwood businesses are stable but I also believe there is much more that can be done to encourage the regeneration of this community," she tells Newshub.

"We are grateful that we have seen the community spirit in the neighbourhood remain high and I understand the Linwood Islamic centre will be engaged in a rebuild of their facility."

It's hoped the proposed design of a new bus hub across the road from the suburb's Eastgate Mall, and the rebuild of Linwood College will bring more people back to the area, she says.

"All these things point to encouraging times ahead."