|Auckland’s Eden Park is action central for the Rugby World Cup. So how has the surrounding Kingsland shopping district geared up for the influx of visitors? NZBusiness caught up with Kingsland Business Society manager Christine Foley.
There has been a lot of media coverage about the economic benefits of the Rugby World Cup (RWC). One Auckland business district that’s ripe for increased patronage though, is largely unknown by most out-of-towners. The Council-dubbed ‘Kingsland Enterprise Corridor’, which includes the somewhat quaint, heritage-infused Kingsland Village, comprises some 380 identifiable businesses. Christine Foley, who manages the Kingsland Business Society, which is funded by a special business rates levy, says the corridor is a diverse range of ‘mixed-use’ enterprises centred on New North Road. There’re many small manufacturing and creative businesses, mostly tucked away, that make up the engine room of the district.
“The most visible, of course, are the hospitality businesses, of which there are about 30. There’s not much retail.”
Foley is realistic about the impact of the rugby event on local enterprises, describing it as a “little shot in the arm”. There’s been some general tidying up and landscaping around the place – but it’s the hospitality venues, such as the Kingslander and Neighbourhood Brewbar, that have come in for the most investment to cater for the influx of fans.
The fact is that most businesses in the district are more likely to be inconvenienced by the sheer numbers of people crowding the streets. “Kingsland is an older suburb, and you have this natural shortage of street parking. The flow on effect of all the traffic activity around Eden Park just 50 metres from the village will cause a lot of inconvenience for businesses,” says Foley.
Kingsland is a business district with a mixture of old and new that has undergone a good deal of change in recent years. It has a strong automotive focus – it even has a panelbeater still located in the village itself.
The overall trend, though, has been the switch from retail to hospitality and, with the arrival of new franchise food and hospitality businesses, Kingsland is undergoing a transition through commodification, says Foley. She believes it’s inevitable that individual owner-operators, in general, will make way for more franchise businesses over time.
“Commodifying is definitely a trend. But one of the aspects of Kingsland Village that we feel really strong about is the importance of keeping its character,” says Foley. “It’s the heritage buildings that make its unique vibe. Despite there being only three scheduled heritage buildings in Kingsland, we’re keen to see a strengthening of heritage protection here.”
She says, in all reality, the only way for more heritage buildings to be protected is through initiatives funded by rates.
Looking ahead, in the Society’s strategic plan there is an intention to recruit more creative businesses to the area. “They’re attracted to our unique, relaxed ‘character’ environment. The Village hasn’t been gentrified – it has kept its quirky, interesting flavour.
“Securing those highly skilled staff in the creative industry, particularly in design and ICT, is all about making the place attractive. You have to be central; you have to be near transport.