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Photo: Kaikoura Kayaks

Thar she glows again Kaikoura’s vital links are reopening and New Zealand’s whale-watching capital is shining brighter than ever. Lynda Keene outlines some surprising new attractions in a landscape remodelled by the earthquake.


fter more than a year’s closure enforced by the massive Kaikoura earthquake, State Highway 1 will reopen on Friday December 15 for travel between Blenheim and Christchurch. It will literally put Kaikoura back on the traveller’s map. The quake in the Kaikoura, Hurunui and Marlborough regions on November 14 last year measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, but the damage to the main transport corridor was off the charts– unprecedented in scale. Slips and land upheavals took out the road and rail line, the main freight artery between the North and South Island. The tourism industry in the Top of the South also took a hit, crippling local economies in Seddon, Ward, Kekerengu, 46

Waipapa, Kaikoura, Cheviot and Waiau. The financial impact has run into multi-millions, if not billions of dollars in repair costs, but also has affected the viability of trucking/freight businesses, plus the commercial fishing, crayfish and paua industry in Kaikoura, KiwiRail journeys and other tourism and retail/hospitality businesses. The customer tap has been literally turned off since November 2016. And let’s not forget that many of these businesses were recovering from the previous earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. Some businesses have done well, some have not. Tourism is one of the major economic drivers of the district; 84% of those employed in Kaikoura either work directly (50%) or indirectly (34%) in tourism-related businesses. From a visitor perspective, the Kaikoura District alone has experienced a 50% slump in visitor spending. Pre-quake figures were $125 million per annum; year-end September 2017 is $63 million. Everyone has had to think creatively and adapt their business in order to survive and operate effectively. Now that the road is opening and the visitor market is being switched on again, there’s an air of optimism coming into the summer season. The Kaikoura community marked the one-year anniversary of the quake on 14 November 2017. The day started at 6am with a dawn blessing. It was a moving ceremony with Mayor Winston Gray and a family member laying a bouquet of flowers at the base of a new whale bone sculpture as a memorial to the two lives lost, and Kaikoura’s connection to the sea and its relationship with all living things. At 12.30pm the official opening included a powhiri, special guest speeches and cutting of the ribbon. It’s a huge milestone along the recovery journey, particularly for the region’s two largest tourism employers, Whale Watch Kaikoura and

Wild Tomato December 2017  

WildTomato is Nelson & Marlborough's magazine. We focus on inspiring journalism, stunning photography and beautiful design. www.wildtomato.c...