'We need a cobbler!' Whanganui councillor wants the town's shoe repairer back

A few weeks ago the last cobbler closed down in Whanganui, and a local councilor has put in the call to get them back.

The closure of Kerry’s Shoe Repairs means residents with a hole in their boot need to travel to Feilding for a repair. Source: Seven Sharp

Usually cobblers, or shoe repairers feature in small-town stories, but in small-town New Zealand, the lack of a cobbler means more than one less shop.

The cusp of this conundrum is to be found at the bottom of local councilor Helen Craig's wardrobe.

"Gorgeous boots, absolutely love them. One of my favourites in winter. The leather was coming away, and I just re-glued them myself because there's no cobbler here. We need a cobbler.

"You want everything in your town so you don't have to go anywhere else, and the cobbler's one of those key things. You don't have it, and you fell, ugh, we're not quite grown up," she said.

When Kerry's Shoe Repairs on the corner of Guyton and Victoria closed recently, Ms Craig expressed her concerns.

"I sent out a press release, and hey New Zealand, send us your cobblers."

Editor of Whanganui Chronicle Mark Dawson initially wrote a response setting out to mock the idea; but as he typed, his mind wandered down to his own feet.

"I've got shoes that I quite like, and are quite smart and were quite fashionable once upon a time, and I thought yeah, I wouldn't mind getting them repaired. I wouldn't want to throw them out. You get a sentimental attachment to a good pair of shoes.

"But this is about more than just a small town with holes in its shoes. This is about our throwaway culture.

"If people don't repair their shoes, they'll be throwing those shoes away, so those shoes will go straight in the landfill," said the editor.

Green chemist Ivanhoe Leung estimates that leather shoes take 25 to 40 years to break down, and plastic shoes like trainers take forever.

"On average people throw away one pair of shoes a year, so in a town like Whanganui, with a population of about 40,000 people, then people will be throwing away on average about 40,000 shoes a year."

With the cobbler catastrophe, Kiwis in Whanganui have resorted to a shoe shop called Posh Comfort. They're couriering shoes from the town to Fielding to be cobbled.

"We're getting more and more people coming through daily to get their shoes repaired through us," said Jenny Monk from Posh Comfort.

Meanwhile Ms Craig is looking at the bigger picture.

"For me it's about having shoes that I love and I can keep. When you find a great pair of shoes, you don't want to throw them away!"