Motels and cafes are counting the cost of a storm that left little physical damage but potentially devastated one of the most lucrative weekends of the year.
Businesses across the Coromandel look set to be lose more than $1.5million in earnings after holidaymakers cancelled Easter plans in the face of Cyclone Cook.
A state of emergency was declared by civil defence on Thursday with travellers warned to stay away and residents in low-lying areas asked to evacuate as the ex-tropical storm tracked towards the region.
But by evening blue sky turned into a pink sunset in Whitianga.
The cyclone tracked further east than expected hitting the Bay of Plenty and only causing minor surface flooding and slips, limiting access to some parts of the peninsula.
“Fizzer” is the word on the lips of Whitianga locals, anxiously hoping for the return of tourists and frustrated that weather warnings will hurt business this Easter weekend.
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“Talk about a disaster for the local economy, a lot of people won’t come,” restauranteur Emmanuel Koutris said.
“Now we’ve got a problem because all people know is that Coromandel is shut off.”
It wasn’t wrong to warn people of the weather, he said, but poor infrastructure and the threat of being cut off was keeping tourists away.
“The coastal road is not good enough, the inland road is not good enough.”
The forecast had already botched an important weekend for Al Camino, his waterfront restaurant. Koutris made $500 on Wednesday night, just 25 per cent of his usual takings.
He wanted holidaymakers to know the sun was shining.
“We are here, we are ready for them, and the weather’s good.”
Whitianga motelier Sam Steed said out of the three storms so far this year, Cyclone Cook felt like any other night.
“I’ve lost half my bookings because – yeah, we had to be careful – but look at the weather today.”
Fear of slips had led people to cancel their long weekend plans, but were blown out of proportion, he said.
“It does make me laugh that this is the worst storm New Zealand has had in 50 years.”
This was the third weekend this year his books have been hit hard by weather. He will look to what insurance options are available to recoup losses.
“We were heavily relying on Easter, but what can you do?”
Destination Coromandel general manager Hadley Dryden said the weather had hit businesses hard but theCoromandel was open for business.
“The sun’s out, it’s shining, there’s good surf around that will hang around for a day or two and there’s really no after affects to speak of.
“It’s just the roads to take care on and a lot of that is from the previous weather events.”
For places like Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park and Hahei Holiday Park cancelled bookings cost the businesses tens of thousands of dollars.
“When we had a massive downpour in January 2016 we had quite a rough month and we were down 11,000 commercial accommodation nights – that equates to at least $1.5million, at least,” Dryden said.
“I’d expect with the rain over March and now we will be looking at similar numbers.”
“Fortunately we had a good start to the year with record spends, so the industry was set up for a good year.”
Lisa Atkins, owner of Taste cafe on Whitianga’s Albert St said normally they would be “pumping” on a Easter friday morning.
“This is our last big weekend for a long time, we really rely on the long weekends.”
The weather has been disastrous so far this year, but there was not much to be done, she said.
“I agree you have to be cautious, but it was a fizzer here.”
Dryden said the Coromandel economy was resilient and would bounce back quickly.
Bay of Plenty business owners were also unhappy.
The trickle of customers buying coffee at Bach Cafe on Maunganui Rd would not be enough to cover the day’s costs, its proprietor Michael Smith said.
“Massive destruction was forecast – this was meant to be the biggest storm in 50 years, so it would have put a lot of people off travelling,” he said.
“We’re paying time and a half plus a day in lieu as it’s Good Friday,” he said. “If things don’t pick up we’re better to close for the day as we’re loosing money.”
Despite the storm alerts being bad for business, Smith reckoned being over-prepared was better than the alternative of people getting hurt.
“We understand storms are hard to predict and the alerts are wise,” he said.
“After what happened in Edgecumbe … it’s better to be like this.”
Smith expected the rest of the long weekend to pick up as people arrived a day later for their holiday.
Saurin Ganhi, owner of 101 Food Market on Maunganui Rd, said he was having a “very quiet” morning after the cyclone.
“This storm was meant to go for three days,” said Gandhi, who shut up shop at 6pm on Thursday evening instead of his usual 9pm.
“In reality there was only two hours of bad weather and that is a big difference.
“I should have stayed open.”
He worried that warnings before Cyclone Cook would keep Easter visitors away and hurt local businesses.
At the Beachside Holiday Park, a motor camp at the foot of the Mount, reception staff said “a lot” of people had cancelled or postponed their bookings due to cyclone warnings.
Caretaker Dave Watson said he had been preparing for the storm since Tuesday.
He dug new drains to filter runoff from the Mount away from huts, closed the low lying beach front campsites that were at risk from surging tides and falling branches, and secured all rubbish bins.
“It’s about keeping people safe,” he said.
“I’m quite pleased it wasn’t as bad as we expected – but we’ve still got some hard yakka ahead clearing debris.”
Damage to the campsite was minimal.
Watson said it was a mere case of strewn monkey tails – Norfolk pine twigs – and some marble-like stones that had washed across their asphalt tracks.
The Mount’s more upmarket, structurally solid accommodation options, were barely dented by the storm.
The Beaumont Apartments’ manager Penny Beck said that no one cancelled last night’s bookings and that the motel remained fully booked for Friday.
“We had a few people ring up, but we reassured them that it was a fast moving storm and the weather was due to get better,” she said.
“And the only damage was a bit of fencing that blew down.”
Oceanside Restort and Twin Towers receptionist Vanessa Mitchell said SH29 over the Kaimais was a bigger issue for her customers, and that a few had postponed bookings until the slip was cleared.