Canterbury exporters shrug off the shakes

By Christopher Adams

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend. Photo / APN
Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend. Photo / APN

High global commodity prices combined with excellent farming conditions have bolstered Christchurch's export sector, allowing it to rise above the challenge of continuing aftershocks, says a business group.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the volume of export documentation being authorised by his organisation was well up on this time last year - before seismic activity began plaguing the region.

"It has never been busier," he said.

"That's a really strong indicator that the international trading side of business activity in Canterbury is going from strength to strength."

And Townsend said the lift in exports was not limited to agricultural products.

"The whole export sector is very active ... but it's the primary sector that's really underpinning the activity."

Tait Electronics spokesman Gareth Richards said the Christchurch-based technology manufacturer was still growing, despite the disruptions caused by the aftershocks.

The company, whose facilities in the city's southwest had got through the quakes undamaged, had signed a $7.9 million deal to supply a radio network to a US police department in February, and had just clinched another deal of a similar size in the same country.

The latest BNZ-BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) showed activity was slightly higher in Canterbury/Westland last month, compared with May 2010, despite the earthquakes in-between.

ManufacturingNZ executive director Catherine Beard did not expect last week's aftershocks to lead to a downturn in the region's June PMI, which will be reported next month.

"Manufacturing [in Christchurch] is just getting on with it," she said.

Townsend said it had been a blessing that Christchurch's southwest, where many export-focused businesses were located, had made it through the quakes largely unscathed.

But the city's retail and tourism industries had been badly affected by the closure of the CBD after the February 22 quake, he said.

Meanwhile, Lyttelton Port chief executive Peter Davie said the company's container terminal had reopened on Friday afternoon, after Monday's aftershocks that caused extensive damage to facilities.

But the firm's coal shipping wharf was still out of action on Friday, he said, which meant Solid Energy's coal exports were stacking up at the port.

"There's been damage to piles underneath the ship loader," he said.

Davie said he did not know how long it would take to get the facility reopened, but it should not take more than a couple of weeks.

Other South Island ports did not have the specialised facilities required to ship coal, he said, so the exports could not be diverted.

Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said there was still quite a bit of storage space available at the port.

"All of our trains are running okay, so it's not having an impact on our mining operations."

- NZ Herald

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