Firms return to strength after quake

8:19 am on 4 October 2010

Most of Canterbury's companies are now back to full production, having tallied up the cost of the disruption of last month's earthquake to their business.

While many business people are relieved and grateful they escaped relatively unscathed, the region's infrastructure, such as buildings and sewerage, needs to be repaired, which may take many months, if not years.

The general manager of retailer Ballantynes, Brian Lamont, says he feared the worst when he arrived on the morning of Saturday 4 September, only to find actual losses were minimal, and about $14,000 worth of stock was destroyed.

Manufacturing giant Tait Electronics resumed production two days after the earthquake. Chief marketing officer James Kyd says the company's business continuity plan proved invaluable and, with important contracts with overseas clients due to be signed that week, it quickly let customers know that it was business as usual.

Mr Kyd says the company is now considering how it can play a part in offering wider assistance to the Canterbury community, to support not only staff and their extended families, but the broader community.

Some firms, such as Lyttleton Port, are having to repair damaged assets. Chief executive Peter Davie says engineers are assessing the damage and considering how it will be fixed while keeping the port fully open.

Although the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce estimates that up to 150 small businesses are failing due to the earthquake, it says that's only 0.1% of all Canterbury firms.

Elastomer Plastics managing director Tom Thomson believes this is the time to build a durable city which retains the heritage that makes it distinctive, including keeping damaged historic inner city buildings where possible.

Council of Trade Union earthquake co-ordinator Marty Braithwaite says the rebuilding process has so far been ad hoc, whereas it requires a coherent, centralised strategy.

Ballantynes' managing director, Richard Ballantyne, warns something needs to be done quickly as quake-imposed restrictions are hastening the departure of inner-city based firms.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend told Morning Report that Christchurch has an opportunity to rebuild, move on and be stronger, and he is confident this will occur.