The Rotorua CBD is Bouncing Back

Publish Date
Thursday, 3 March 2022, 2:40PM

OPINION: Paul Hickey

I'm proud to live in Rotorua.  I love our city and everything about it.  Well, most things.  We have some issues, but every centre does.  But I also like to talk about the good stuff.  Too many people can only see the bad things, and will moan about anything and everything, without ever trying to balance things up a bit.

I do believe the CBD is bouncing back; or at least holding it's own.  Locals are believing in themselves and taking calculated risks opening businesses.  But they need us, the locals, to support them and make the CBD area thrive once again.

Nearly three years ago I started to get annoyed by a number of locals constantly bagging our Rotorua CBD, and in particular the number of empty shops, and just how bad that look was for Rotorua. Some social media comments at the time were mentioning ‘190 odd empty locations’, and I thought to myself "hell no that can’t be the case".

At the time I read that, I had just spent some time walking around town thinking how good it was looking, especially as far as the lack of empty shops go. I’d consider myself a pretty good judge, considering the amount of time I have spent in our CBD over the past 20 years in my job?

So back in 2019, I decided to actually count the empty shops. Nothing too scientific, just a count of the shops with street level frontage within the boundaries of Fenton, Amohau, Arawa and Amohia Streets.

I also recalled that once upon a time, the Rotorua Daily Post used to undertake something similar on a quarterly basis, using the same boundaries. I was able to find the following data from internet searches:
May 2009 – 50
Jan 2012 – 56
Sep 2012 – 91 …65 on street +26 empty in the new Royal Court Mall
Sep 2013 – 98 … including Royal Court
Jan 2016 – 78 …61 on street +17 in Royal Court

So I embarked on my own survey to see just how badly it had (supposedly) deteriorated according to critics. I stuck to the quarterly plan through 2019. And it showed a marked improvement compared with earlier in the decade, a far cry from the rapid decline loudly trumpeted by a number of people.
May 2019 – 55 … 43 on street and 12 in Royal Court
Aug 2019 – 55 … 41 / 14
Nov 2019 – 56 … 44 / 12

Then in the new year, just prior to the pandemic, things were looking even better.
Feb 2020 – 47 …35 / 12

During the pandemic I stopped my little survey. Shops were closing down, business was just not going on, and things honestly seemed pretty bad. But in a recent walk around town, I noticed what seemed to be a quite a few new little shops opening up. So to mark two years since my last count, I decided to update my survey numbers, and was actually blown away by what I found.
Feb 2022 – 53 … 42 on street and 11 in Royal Court

YES YOU SEE THAT CORRECTLY! We have LESS empty shops in the CBD now that what we had three years ago, and only six more than just before the pandemic hit.

You may be thinking that there are still too many – and I agree.  But this is now reflected all over the country, it’s not just a Rotorua thing. And considering our large CBD frontage footprint, I think we are actually in a better position than many other centres.

I take my hat off to all those locals taking the plunge into retail or service business in the CBD. They are there trying to succeed, so let’s support them (and all business in Rotorua).

To those who are continually negative (I could list quite a few people who stick out in my mind, but won’t), take off your blinkers, get out there and actually do something to help make this great city shine once again.