Friday, September 22, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: Have our CBDs seen their best days?

I see it reported that 'the Auckland restaurateur whose close to the site of Monday’s fatal bus stop stabbing is worried “people are afraid to come out to the area to eat” after the second violent attack on innocent members of the public in Albany in months.' The other one was the axe wieldng man attacking diners back in June.  

But also at the the Albany bus stop, a 16-year-old told the Police that she was randomly attacked there, getting punched in the head and having her shoes stolen. And they wonder why we don't take public transport in Auckland. But it made me think about the suburbs versus the CBD, because Auckland city's struggling too apparently.


A bar and restaurant owner in the CBD told Mike's show this week that the change in our behaviours heading to town are dramatically different to what they once were. Fewer people in the office, fewer people in town, work functions starting earlier, or on work time, like 4 o’clock, so the function’s over by 6.30 and people can go home. She reckons part of its corporate driven – firms don’t want to be seen to be spending too much money on this kind of thing so they’re reigning it in, and employees less likely these days to want to ‘waste time’ on work functions. People would rather go home to their families.  

I mean she added the obvious point that Auckland city feels dangerous to a lot of people these days, plus it’s largely inaccessible by car so you’re on foot – which means in the rain you’re not bothering. In fact she said when it rains, 50% of RSVP’s don’t turn up to the function, they’re too worried the train or ferry will be cancelled, or the Harbour Bridge shut, which is a good point. The public transport system in Auckland has become so obsessed with shutting or not running that it’s a real turn off for people. Likewise the rise in violent incidents is a turn off too. 

But this bar owner sounded depressed about the outlook for Hospo. She said they’re barely hanging in there, it’s gotten that bad. She’s suspicious after work drinks may be a thing of the past – it’s too much of a liability for companies – they don’t want the hassle of any scandals or issues, and employees increasingly can’t be bothered.  

None of this surprises me about Auckland, but I wonder about other CBDs. I often hear from people saying the problem in other CBDs is not so much the patronage, but more so the ownership - bar or restaurant owners wanting people out by 9pm because the owner wants to shut up, or staff need to get home. We had a 1pm lunch in Christchurch the other day, for 4 of us, and at 2.30pm the waitress put the bill on the table and said, “we’re closing now".  

But I reckon the post lockdown bounce back for us is taking so much longer than other countries. You go to Europe, London, parts of America, even Australia, and you’ll see CBDs have bounced back to a far more vibrant scene than what we have going on here. Which makes me wonder if we’ve actually changed for good now. Is this who we are now? People who just want to go home, stay home, drink at home, socialize at home? Suburban bars and cafes must be benefitting from all this. People seem happy to stay local, so maybe that’s where the trend’s gone.  

But if our CBDs have seen their best days and this is it now, then I reckon that’s quite sad.

Kate Hawkesby is a journalist and broadcaster who hosts the Early Edition show on Newstalk ZB.


Anonymous said...

Kate, nz as we knew it has finished. Even a change of govt cannot stop this. Catching the train from newmarket last night there was this crazy guy on the platform, pumped up, yelling, holding a knife. Security there called the police. Then i hopped on a bus. A drunk guy was yelling at the bus driver. The driver could do nothing. iIn the cbd of akl you see the same thing. I don't think anything can be done now. All the rest of us who want to live a normal life can do, is leave this broken country. It has 100% lost it's mojo

Ribro90 said...

Wellington CBD is much quieter now. My local Courtaney St bar is doing ok but Friday night after work customers are down 50%, add to that the WCC's hatred of anybody enjoying themselves and you have a recipe for a continuing down turn if not a disaster.