By ROBYN BRISTOW
Cheviot’s resilience is being put to the test again.
It has just dusted itself off from the impact of three years of drought and a 7.8-earthquake. Now, the Covid-19 lockdown has arrived.
Many businesses have had to put up the shutters, with the village’s Four Square, PGG Wrightson and the local vets the only ones remaining open to provide residents with essential services.
The November 2016 quake silenced the main highway for months, leaving businesses along the route with few customers, except those who went on road trips north to support them, particularly at weekends.
Today, the highway is silent again, apart from the entourage of trucks rattling through the town, providing essential services to Canterbury and beyond.
Cheviot Promotions Inc secretary Gary Mitchell says it is tough, particularly when things started to improve for everyone in the district after the earthquake and the recent threat of another drought.
“Most retailers along the frontage of the main highway had a reasonable summer. But they have no sooner got out of the earthquake situation with the road closures, and up and running again, and, wham, something else comes along.
“It feels like we have been it with the ugly stick several times,” he says.
The farming community had struggled through three years of drought, plus the threat of another in recent months, and many were struggling.
Rain had arrived to help, but farmers were still out there every day making sure their stock are fed, and carrying out other farm duties.
At the Ribbonwood Country House, just north of Cheviot, which Gary runs with his partner Robert Day, things had not been fantastic due to not having any Chinese guests for the Chinese New Year.
“It is going to take a while to bounce back. But everyone is in the same boat,” says Gary, who is keen to see domestic travel and tourism promoted when the lockdown ends.
He accepts there will be another downturn, but Cheviot is surrounded by a dedicated
farming community and together they had all pulled through adverse times before.
‘‘Farmers are continuing to farm, spending money on animal health and crops, and after the lockdown they will have product to sell and crops to harvest.
‘‘I think it is great the farming community is ticking over. They will be appreciated a bit more at the end of this.’’
The local Four Square was a Godsend and the community was ‘‘resilient’’. ‘‘It is amazing what the community can do together.
We have been here before and while this is slightly different from the earthquake, we will
recover quicker because we are used to it,’’ he says.
Meanwhile, at the guest house, where they have three stranded international guests, everyone was just knuckling down and giving each other space.
‘‘They tried to leave early, had flights booked, then Dubai closed its borders, so they are here for the duration.’’
Hurunui Deputy Mayor Vince Daly, who farms near Cheviot, says it is not a flash situation for towns like Cheviot.
‘‘It will be pretty hard to come back from, and tourism is not going to crank up again in a hurry.’’