Woodville group gathers steam
A new Woodville business promotion group is steaming its way toward a more prosperous future in the wake of the Manawatu¯ Gorge closure.
State Highway 3 through the gorge was closed on April 24 when a large slip came down and is now shut indefinitely because of safety concerns. The closure has hit businesses in Woodville, the town on the Hawke’s Bay side of the gorge, hard as vehicles using alternative routes bypass the town.
Woodville Enterprise spokesman Evan Nattrass said his secondhand store, the Viking’s Haul, hadn’t been as busy since the gorge closed, so he began informally floating ideas on how to improve things with a few other Woodville business owners.
Woodville Districts Vision has since taken the fledgling group under its wing as a subcommittee and granted it $2000 as a seed fund.
Vision’s support and the seed fund were a huge first step toward successfully pulling off their first major project, a scenic train trip and market event to draw people into town, Nattrass said.
Nattrass said there had been no support for the town’s struggling businesses from the Government, and unlike Dannevirke and Pahiatua, there was no local Chamber of Commerce to help them. So, the decided to take matters into their own hands.
‘‘You can say ‘poor me, poor me’, wring your hands and pull your hair, but at the end of the day, you’ll be in the same position. Nothing’s going to change unless you get stuck in and change it.’’
The Feilding and District Steam Rail Society heard about the group and got in touch to see what it could do to help.
The society regularly organised scenic train trips as a fundraiser for the club and often attracted hundreds of people from around the lower North Island.
‘‘They suggested instead of just going through the gorge and showing people the sights, this time they the could bring them in [to town],’’ Nattrass said.
Their November fundraiser was expected to pull in 500 people and the society offered to add in a three-hour stop in Woodville to the event.
Woodville Enterprise planned to greet visitors with live entertainment and a market-day.
Nattrass said they hoped to create a festival atmosphere, with a ‘‘Mad Hatter’’ theme and prizes for people wearing the maddest hat.
‘‘We want people to have a good time.
‘‘So when they leave, they’re wanting to come back and telling people Woodville is a great place to go, not just to go through.’’
Nattrass hoped the lessons learned from running the event could be applied to new events to keep promoting Woodville.