Quake relief extended to Wellington

9:23 pm on 28 November 2016

The government is extending its employee support subsidy for earthquake-affected businesses to Wellington.

The cordon around quake-damaged buildings on Featherston Street in central Wellington.

The cordon around quake-damaged buildings on Featherston Street in central Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

It will apply to businesses that cannot operate due to cordons and are unable to relocate.

The support subsidy will cover up to eight weeks. It will pay $500 gross per week for a full-time employee and $300 gross per week for a part-time employee.

It will not be subject to GST, and will only apply until the cordon is lifted.

A package was earlier announced for earthquake-affected Kaikōura businesses, which are also eligible for a wage subsidy, at the same rate, for up to eight weeks.

The cordon around the condemned building at 61 Molesworth St in central Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / Eric Frykberg

Ministers said the situation in Wellington was different from Kaikōura, because a state of emergency had not been declared.

The city overall was functioning well, but a small number of retail and hospitality businesses were unable to trade for an extended period because of the need to demolish buildings, they said.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who announced the extension this afternoon with Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, said they expected more than 50 businesses would be eligible in Wellington.

"At this stage we expect the package to apply to around a dozen businesses on Molesworth Street, 15-20 businesses in Tory Street, and a larger number of businesses in and around the Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt," he said.

About 60 businesses in Kaikōura had taken up the offer, with $606,400 paid out so far, Mr Joyce said.

The government had set aside $7.5 million for the scheme. It would review it before Christmas, with more funding made available if required.

The Mayor of Wellington, Justin Lester said although the deal was a wage subsidy, company proprietors could also get the money.

He said this would apply because proprietors who work to run a business usually pay themselves a salary and so would qualify for the subsidy.

Under the Government rules, the money is not available to businesses with continuity insurance.

This worried one woman, Shonagh MacLeod, who co-owned World Of Mouth Cafe and Catering Company behind the cordon on Molesworth St.

"We heard that the government is going to help out Wellington businesses which is great," she said.

"But it is only for businesses which don't have business interruption insurance.

"We do, but the excess is so high that our accountant said it might not be worth claiming and I just wonder if that is going to stop us getting Government help."

Justin Lester said people needed to be very careful about this and should deal with the matter on a case by case basis with the Ministry for Social Development.

They should also talk to their insurance company.

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