Christchurch earthquake: Big firms escape worst but await damage reports

By Christopher Adams

Emergency services search the rumble for survivors in Christchurch. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Emergency services search the rumble for survivors in Christchurch. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The facilities of some of Christchurch's biggest manufacturers appear to have made it through Tuesday's earthquake relatively unscathed.

The sector was the city's biggest employer in 2009, according to ManufacturingNZ, and the second-largest contributor to the local economy.

One of Canterbury's biggest manufacturers, Tait Radio Communications, which employs 650 staff in Christchurch, was yesterday reporting no damage to its facility, near the international airport.

"We cannot see any major structural damage and we're just waiting to get an engineer to inspect [the building] before we open it to staff," said chief marketing officer James Kyd.

"It looks very positive from our perspective."

He said that if the company got the green light from engineers it would be able to restart operations this week, although staff would be given the option of staying home if unable to return to work for personal reasons.

Sanitarium was reporting no visible damage to its facilities in Papanui Rd yesterday.

Pierre van Heerden, the cereal maker's general manager, said the Christchurch plant had been shut down on Tuesday and staff given the rest of the week off. The situation would be reassessed next week.

But there was no danger of the region running out of Weet-Bix, with van Heerden saying there was plenty of stock available at the Papanui Rd site.

Steel & Tube Holdings, which employs about 150 workers in Christchurch, said its major sites in Blenheim Rd and Braeburn Drive appeared to have escaped major damage.

No injuries had been reported from the firm's staff.

Steel & Tube chief executive Dave Taylor said all city branches would be closed for at least the next two days.

Scott Technology - which has two manufacturing operations in the Christchurch suburb of Bromley, employing 80 staff - was reporting only superficial damage yesterday.

"The timing and extent of a return to operation will be dependent on the results of structural checks and on access to services," said chief executive Chris Hopkins.

David Mair, acting chief executive of Canterbury farming equipment manufacturer Skellerup, said yesterday it was too early to comment on operational matters at the firm.

The company was still waiting for engineers to assess its buildings.

Mair said there was little the firm could do while electricity was down.

"What we're doing right now is assessing those [staff] who have been more severely impacted at home ... because without them we can't run the business," Mair said. "This [earthquake] will be much tougher for people to come back from [than the September quake]."

John Walley, chief executive of the Christchurch-based New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the city's manufacturing sector would take much longer to recover from this week's earthquake than the one that hit the region last year.

"Last time [businesses] were up and running in a week or so, but I think it will take about a month this time."

- NZ Herald

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