Support extended for quake-hit Kaikōura businesses

12:38 pm on 9 December 2016

The government has extended its wage subsidy package for quake-affected businesses in and around Kaikōura for a further eight weeks.

Economic development minister Steven Joyce visited Kaikōura today to meet with quake-affected business owners.

The government's $7.5 million business support package, unveiled on Mr Joyce's last visit three weeks ago, was set to run out in January and employers said longer-term help might be needed.

The decision, announced by Mr Joyce this morning, doubled the support from 8 to sixteen weeks.

The subsidy was also extended to businesses in Hanmer Springs and the wider Hurunui District which can show a sudden, large and sustained drop in revenue following the earthquake.

The scheme provides employees and employers with a guaranteed income of $500 a week for a maximum of eight weeks.

Mr Joyce said that while good progress was being made in restoring the southern access to Kaikōura, it would still be some weeks before both roads to the south were open and operational for visitors.

He said the road north would take a long time to be restored.

The business help was already lifeline for Lauren Fearnley and the six people she employs at her homeware store.

Lauren Fearnley, owner of Blossom.

Lauren Fearnley said it would be "tough" without extra help. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

With the slow rate of progress on re-opening the State Highway 1, the help was going to be needed to help keep her business afloat.

"As soon as for us the Christmas trade is kind of gone, that's the only thing that's really keeping us ticking by at the moment.

"We're still completely down on our normal trading significantly, but yeah it's going to be tough if we don't get anything beyond January."

She had said she would nave needed to let people go if the assistance wasn't extended.

Steven Joyce in Kaikoura specking to bigger businesses.

Steven Joyce visited Kaikōura and spoke to business owners after the quake three weeks ago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Wayne Scott runs West End Clothing from a building he inherited from his parents who previously ran a haberdashery store.

He was keen to keep his two staff on and said without government assistance Kaikōura's future could be in doubt.

"We're not the only business in town, a lot of people in town are struggling so the more assistance we can have, the town can keep going. Otherwise it's just going to be a dead-end town."

The country as a whole would miss out if the town was no longer seen as an essential stop for overseas tourists, he said.

"Kaikōura is a big earner for New Zealand in the tourist trade so I think the government have to come to the fore and help us out.

They're going to miss out on a lot of money otherwise."

Penny Betts from Gecko Gears sells imported clothing from Nepal and relies on overseas visitors.

She said eventually they would return, but she had been worried they would return to unless the government subsidy was extended.

Ms Betts has just come back from Nepal and said her suppliers there, who were also dealing with the aftermath of a huge earthquake, provided her with inspiration.

"It does help me because I came back thinking they are so resilient, they're such strong people and now we're in that position, if they can get through, we can get through."

The Adelphi Hotel in Kaikoura

The Adelphi Hotel in Kaikōura a fortnight after the earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

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