Government finalises help plans

7:21 pm on 8 September 2010

Government plans to help Canterbury people manage the financial impact of the earthquake will be finalised by the end of the week, says Minister of Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee.

Various ministries and agencies, including the Earthquake Commission and the Accident Compensation Corporation, and private companies have been working together to find ways to ensure affected people are assisted quickly.

Mr Brownlee says there are still some options being looked at but he does not think new legislation will be needed to speed up the rebuilding of the city.

The Earthquake Commission has had to get extra staff to deal with the number of calls it has been fielding. Twenty staff from the ACC's call centre have been assigned to support the commission.

The staff have been given training on handling inquiries and claims.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill English said insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission had assured him they had the capacity to cover claims in Canterbury.

Mr English told Parliament the commission was aiming to have the first of 10 field offices set up in Christchurch by Friday where it expected to receive about 100,000 claims.

He said the commission and private insurers were working to process claims as quickly as possible. He said the best way for people to lodge claims with the commission was via its website.

Tax leniency

Minister of Revenue Peter Dunne says the Inland Revenue Department will be sympathetic towards quake-hit businesses and individuals in Canterbury.

Mr Dunne assured people on Wednesday that all payments from Inland Revenue, such as Working for Families tax credits, would be made as usual.

He says businesses may not have been physically able to pay their tax and file their returns, or may have had their records destroyed. Inland Revenue would be sympathetic and realistic in such circumstances.

Mr Dunne says cash donations of more than $500 by individuals will be eligible for a tax credit and those made by companies will be tax deductible.

Inland Revenue has set up an 0800 number for people facing difficulties.

Prisoners flown north

The Defence Force has been flying more than 300 prisoners from Christchurch to the North Island.

The Corrections Department says its buildings are being reassessed to see if they can securely hold inmates. They are also being examined to determine if they are safe enough for staff to work in.

The department says subsequent aftershocks have compromised its ability to keep the public safe.

The prisoners were being transported on Wednesday from Christchurch Men's Prison.

About 135 inmates from Christchurch Women's Prison have already been moved to Auckland.