News three Woodville stores owned by entrepreneur Suzie Johnson and her husband Kiwi will close on August 21 is "absolutely devastating," Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis says.
"I know this isn't something Suzie has done lightly, she put her heart and soul into those businesses and this news is a real shock for the community," Mrs Collis said.
With almost a 60 per cent drop in profit since the Manawatu Gorge closed on April 24, the Johnsons are closing Woodville's Oosh La La, For Frocks Sake and the Oosh gallery.
However, while they agree it is a sad day for Woodville, new business owners, Catherine Hunt and Kellie McKay, owners of You Hairdressing which occupies premises owned by the Johnsons as part of their Vogel St complex, are looking on the positive side.
"The closure of Suzie's three stores opens up opportunities for others to come and take up the space. Suzie is a wonderful person who has a strong online presence and she's built her motivational speaking company," Mrs McKay said. "But this closure about the staff, those poor girls losing their jobs . . . "
Yesterday morning, Inland Revenue staff were visiting businesses in Woodville, asking how things were going, Mrs McKay said, as part of steps put in place by the National Government to work with businesses affected by the gorge closure.
Mrs Collis said Suzie's stores, which were open seven days a week, attracted a lot of business to Woodville, but with no end in sight regarding the Manawatu Gorge, it's understandably been very hard to budget.
"Suzie knows how hard it is, she went through the 2011/12 closure of the gorge and understands the challenges," she said.
If the Government had offered a financial hardship package to Woodville businesses, the Johnsons said they may have been able to hold on to their stores.
But Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott told the Dannevirke News there could be a lot of reasons why the Johnsons may be closing their Woodville businesses and one store in Shannon.
"They may be focussing their business efforts elsewhere or in other stores," he said. "Relief packages, like say, a petrol discount, are unlikely to have stopped the change in their business decision.
"What we, the Government, need to do is provide certainty about an alternative route through the gorge, and the timing of that route, and act with urgency on both those issues."
The New Zealand Transport Agency are negotiating to buy or lease land at the bottom of the Saddle Rd and hope to have a new roading corridor on to Woodlands Rd open within two months. This new road will force traffic through Woodville and not bypass the town by taking Oxford Rd.