Ballantynes jobs 'more secure' as reopening planned

By Paul Harper

Ballantynes fared better than many buildings on Cashel Street during the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / David Alexander
Ballantynes fared better than many buildings on Cashel Street during the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / David Alexander

The jobs of almost 380 Ballantynes staff appear more secure following the news the Christchurch branch may be able to reopen later this year.

Yesterday it was announced a section of the cordoned-off red zone of the Christchurch CBD, where the damage from the February 22 earthquake is most severe, will hopefully be open for business from October 29.

Under the project Re:Start 29.10.11, an area bounded by Oxford Tce, Hereford St, Colombo St and Lichfield St will be opened in time for November's New Zealand Cup and Show Week and the crucial Christmas trading.

The news has been welcomed by Ballantynes managing director Mary Devine.

"It is great to have a plan in place," Ms Devine said. "The seven months will go very quickly."

Located right in the heart of the CBD, the Ballantynes store on Cashel St sees 30 per cent of retail shoppers in the CBD pass through its doors.

Having an opening date means they will be very reluctant to make staff redundant.

Ms Devine said management have met with staff each week since the quake.

Staff are being redeployed at the Timaru and airport branches in the meantime, as well as being given training opportunities while the CBD store remains closed.

"We've been able to spread staff around a variety of activities," she said. "We are trying to make the most of this time."

While much of Cashel St was devastated in the 6.3 magnitude quake, the Ballantynes building faired well.

"The main part of the building - which was rebuilt in the 1950s - is fine. It has held up very well," Ms Devine said.

"There were 500 people in the store, that's staff and customers, at the time of the earthquake, and there was only one injury - one lady that fell over. That shows the strength of the building."

A newer part of the building was having further engineering reports and work may be required, she said.

When the store does open, there will be a few surprises for customers.

"We thought we would take the opportunity and look out our store refit and there are a couple of areas that we think that now we've got some down time that we might try and create some unique environments within the store," Ms Devine said.

Meanwhile, Zone 8 - which the area between Brougham Street and Moorhouse Avenue, and Montreal and Gasson streets - has today opened to residents and businesses, and will tomorrow open to the public.

Zone 4 North - between Bealey Avenue, Salisbury St, Montreal St and Park Terrace - will open to residents and business owners from 8am this Sunday and to the public from 8am Monday.

Zone 7A - encompassing Chester Street East, Madras Street, Barbadoes Street and Oxford Terrace - will also open to residents and business owners on Monday and to the public from 8am Tuesday.

The Civil Defence has also updated its list of buildings set for demolition, partial demolition and those required to be made safe.

This comes after some buildings had been erroneously added to the list, which was originally released last week.

- with Newstalk ZB

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