Fear is starting to set in as the enormity of the situation following last week's earthquakes emerges in Kaikōura, Prime Minister John Key says.
Mr Key made a flying visit to the quake-hit area today, to further assess damage and recovery efforts.
There had been some noticeable progress in clearing roads and slips, but the scale of the challenge ahead was daunting for some, he said.
"Generally I'd say that people are in a good mental space, the feeling's quite confident in that they're getting a fair bit of support, but as always is the case, the enormity of the challenge starts sinking in."
Mr Key said there was general fear about the long recovery, particularly for pāua divers who were expecting it to take five or six years for stocks to replenish.
People were already starting to battle with insurance companies and aftershocks were having an ongoing effect, he said.
"For Kaikōura, for this season, it's in for a very reduced level of activity.
"Once it opens, we can really market that, but the real issue is people feeling they can get in and out."
View RNZ's full coverage of the earthquakes here.