PHOTO: MONIQUE FORD/STUFF The shops are the only properties empty at the shopping centre.

Locals looking to plug a “black hole” in their shopping centre are furious that privately-owned shops are languishing empty, putting off other businesses and stifling growth.

The trio of vacant shops in Waikanae’s town centre, north of Wellington, have recently been graffitied with messages to their owner, imploring her to lease them.

Kāpiti Coast district councillor Michael Scott said the shops had been deliberately kept vacant for 20 years despite offers from people – including the Kāpiti Coast District Council – to rent or buy them.

“They cannot be allowed to remain vacant for another 20 years.”