Businesses in small Horowhenua town on brink of collapse due to road detour

Businesses in the small Horowhenua town of Shannon are on the brink of collapsing because a road detour has skipped the town.

It'll be months before the road's completed, so Shannon is begging Waka Kotahi for a sign to remind people it's still there.

Shannon is a humble Horowhenua town renowned as a pit stop on State Highway 57.

It’s got shops, a museum, a toy circus and even half an aeroplane, but it's getting a fraction of the travellers it needs.

"We're a ghost town now, there's nothing," Streetwise Coffee owner Andrea Rider says.

"We're just sitting here and watching the tumbleweeds go through," Shannanigans owner Yvonne says.

The streets are empty due to a road safety upgrade that's been underway for a month.

State Highway 57 goes through Shannon towards Palmerston North, but the northbound lane in Levin is closed. Instead, drivers heading from Wellington have to detour through Himatangi.

An alternate route through Shannon is open, but signs tell drivers to go the other way.

Waka Kotahi says that's because the heavy State Highway traffic would damage local roads. But the roadworks couldn't come at a worse time.

"Income has probably more than halved and also factor in COVID, that's a double whammy," Yvonne says.

And it could prove disastrous.

"If nothing gets changed we won't be open on the weekends and our weekdays, that means I'll have to let go of staff," Rider says.

The community does believe there is a solution.

"Just to have some signage to say 'hey guys, you can still head to Shannon through Highway 57 at the top of Queen St'," Rider says.

It's something the council is getting behind.

"Really, really important, because we're saying as a community, our business sector and community are open for trade," Horowhenua District Council Robert Ketu said.

The spot where they're proposing for the sign to go is in Levin, so instead of traffic continuing north, they can veer east to pay Shannon a visit.

NZTA say it's something it's considering.

The project isn't due to be finished until at least the middle of the year, leaving this small community hoping Waka Kotahi doesn't horse around.