27 Feb 2023

Gisborne region business welcome cyclone support funding as a good start

11:51 am on 27 February 2023
The clean-up after Cyclone Gabrielle is under way in Te Karaka, north-west of Gisborne.

The clean-up after Cyclone Gabrielle in Te Karaka, north-west of Gisborne. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Businesses in the Gisborne region are pleased with the initial cyclone support package as a solid start, but are keen for more detail and longer-term solutions.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson unveiled the latest spending in Gisborne on Sunday.

The $25 million in grants is the second part of a $50m fund announced last week. The first $25m went to primary industries.

Businesses in cyclone-affected regions will be able to claim up to $40,000 to help get back on their feet

Robertson said money for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, Hawke's Bay and the Gisborne region would be will be distributed by organisations in each area because locals knew best about the needs of their own communities.

Matt Cairns represents tourism and hospitality businesses in Te Tairāwhiti.

After seven major storms in the region in the last 18 months the sector is hurting and Cairns said the region was smashed.

Any assistance was gratefully received, but the best help would be the return of tourists, he said.

''We are not alone. A lot of regions are in the same boat and domestic tourism is huge so what I would encourage is that regions that have been affected do need our fellow Kiwis to continue to travel when it is safe and we are ready.''

He said the devil was in the detail and it would be interesting to hear how the money would be handed out.

''Any opportunity to get cash out the door and help the businesses that need that right now is going to be an improvement on where we are now."

Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said the region was still in recovery phase.

The group owns Gisborne Port and manages the airport and the electricity network.

''We have a lot of our port guys out actually helping clean up silt, that sort of thing," Todd said.

''We are going to see volumes into the port, particularly from the forestry and horticulture sector significantly reduced. They simply can't get the product to us, so we will just work through that and hopefully we can rebuild infrastructure and rebuild those volumes.''

Daniel Williams from Ngati Porou Forests believes the financial assistance on offer is a good start.

''We really need to be thinking about long-term solutions. We have the immediate impact here and now and to try and get people back to work is our biggest concern. Longer term we need to be thinking about those things as well.''

He said flood and climate change resilience needed to be factored in to how people did business.

Flood damage around Gisborne

The aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in Gisborne. Photo: RNZ/Nathan McKinnon

The amount of grant money going to each region isn't yet known.

Agencies distributing the business support grants across cyclone-affected regions are;

  • Northland Inc
  • Auckland Business Chamber
  • Toi Economic Development Agency
  • Thames Coromandel District Council
  • Trust Tairāwhiti
  • Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce
  • Tararua District Council

Trust Te Tairāwhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy said the need was huge.

''We would need to make sure the fund is equitable - that those still dealing with immediate personal issues will still have an opportunity.

"We are really aware of the access and connectivity of our rural remote coastal businesses, so we will make sure that all of the businesses of Tai Rāwhiti get the opportunity.''

A damaged bridge seen during a flight over Gisborne after Cyclone Gabrielle.

A damaged bridge seen during a flight over Gisborne on 15 February. Photo: East Coast MP Kiritapu Allan

Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz said the region did not want to be forgotten, particularly after dealing with storm after storm.

''We are in constant response mode and as we move into recovery mode then we have to step back into response mode.

What we wanted [when meeting Grant Robertson] was to talk to him and to hear from him also about the short-term responses, but we need to have those longer term resilience discussions with the government where we talk about roads, water, connectivity and welfare.''

More details on the support package are expected on Monday.

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