Restoration work of the quake-damaged Kaikōura harbour will not be completed until the middle of the year, the government says.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake in November severely damaged the harbour, raising the seabed and limiting access to four hours a day.
The government was spending $5 million repairing and upgrading the infrastructure, including repairing the slipway and marina, as well as deepening the main channel out of the harbour.
Dolphin Encounter manager Dennis Buurman said the timeframe was longer than he had hoped, but he understood it was a big job.
Mr Buurman said while the Government helped with financial assistance for some businesses, nothing could compensate the loss of income over the normally-busy summer period.
He said some business owners were at the point of desperation.
Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was a big job, but the importance of the harbour could not be understated.
Mr Brownlee said tourism and fishing was worth almost $150 million to the Kaikōura economy every year.
"Crews have already started to repair the marina and have been clearing and levelling the main commercial slipway. Work has also progressed at the recreational wharf and the Coastguard Kaikōura slipway.
"At the same time the channel into the main harbour is being deepened by dredging out the new sea floor. So far, about 5000 cubic metres of material has been excavated."
When the work was completed, the harbour would be two metres deep at low tide, allowing all day use, Mr Brownlee said.
Whale Watch Kaikoura said it was relieved repairs to the quake-damaged harbour will be completed before the next summer tourist season.
Whale Watch was only sending out three trips a day, compared to 16 last summer, due to the limited access to the harbour.
General manager Kauahi Ngapara said he was relieved the repairs would be completed before the next tourist season, but it would be tough for tourist operators in the meantime.
He said it was like having three winters seasons back to back.