About 30 Christchurch business owners were given the chance this morning to retrieve what they could from their premises inside the cordon around the most quake-damaged parts of the central city.
After being warned about the dangers and being told what to do in the event of an aftershock, the business owners, all sporting hard hats and high visibility gear, were given three hours inside the cordon.
Richard Brewer, a spokesman for Canterbury Business Recovery Group, said a further 40 owners would be allowed into the cordon this afternoon and it was hoped about 1000 would be allowed back within a fortnight. About 3000 businesses had registered with the group and by the end of today about 400 would have been able to return, he said.
Among those returning was Matthew Gledhill, the owner of Wilburn Furniture and Restoration, whose premises on Madras Street have been red stickered.
Gledhill was waiting outside his shop for its status to be changed to yellow, meaning he could enter, and hoped to get out important diaries and notes to help the business, which had relocated out of the cordon, start operating.
"We're ready to go now, we need to get up and running because we will be inundated with EQC repairs," he said.
His workshop was still housing many "priceless" antiques, but he would not be able to get these out until the cordon was removed.
Martin Anderson, the owner of design company Outside the Square Creative, said he had been working from home since February 22's quake and it was unlikely his company would return to the central city.
He had only been in the building on Tuam Street since November, after he was forced to move from his previous office after last September's quake.
Anderson was hoping to retrieve what he could from his office because insurance would not cover what was left inside.
"Insurance won't cover any stuff I leave behind, because you have a $2500 excess, so I'll try and get as much as I can."
Inside his building, which was given a green sticker, glass, furniture and appliances were strewn across the floor - frozen in time since the quake hit.
Guy Griffith-Jones, owner of C4 coffee, in the same building, was looking to remove some stock so it he could get up and running outside the cordon.
Griffith-Jones, whose company was currently borrowing some space from a competitor, said retrieving the stock would help it continue operations somewhere else.
Roland Logan, who owns a building on Madras Street, returned to his building annoyed to find it had been unlocked by Civil Defence workers and a $2500 dollar ring was missing.
He said Civil Defence had come in and broken windows when the building had already been given the all clear.
"I think Civil Defence have been putting a too bigger safety approach, not just within the CBD, but all around Christchurch," said Logan.
Brewer said company owners being allowed to return to their premises inside the cordon was important for them being able to get up and running outside the CBD.
"We want businesses to keep operating, and the sooner we can get them critical business items, the sooner they can get back up and running," he said.