Learn from Christchurch and subsidise businesses hit by the devastating Kaikoura earthquake, former mayor Sir Bob Parker has told the Government.

The agriculture and tourism sectors are expected to be those worst affected by the weekend's magnitude 7.5 quake, which destroyed much of the region's transport infrastructure causing an uncertain future for many business owners.

Parker, who was Christchurch's mayor during the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes, said central and local governments needed to act quickly to ensure businesses could keep paying their staff.

"If you lose the income for your workforce, you then lose those jobs and you basically lose your entire economy ... and your town collapses.

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"What we did [in Christchurch] was create ... a process whereby businesses could come and get short-term finance, they could access support for employees, and we put income into the marketplace and subsidised jobs so that businesses could keep employees."

After Christchurch 2011, the Government enacted an earthquake support subsidy for small and medium businesses, paying employers who were going to remain in business up to $500 per week for six weeks. Employees who lost their jobs as a result of the quake could claim up to $400 per week.

Parker said it was essential that the businesses affected by the latest earthquake were kept afloat.

"Enabling your business community to survive is going to give you a future for your town. If you don't, your town will go."

Parker was impressed by the Government's response so far, and said it appeared lessons from Christchurch had been learned.

He was sure that the region would bounce back from the destruction reaped by the weekend's earthquake.

"You've got to be realistic but with the region's agriculture, for example, there is a global demand for the products that they're producing so they're going to be okay," he said.

"With tourism, Kaikoura and other affected areas are stunningly beautiful and have some unique and wonderful natural assets like the whales which will ensure that in the future those businesses will be able to survive."

Furthermore, Parker said the Government needed to get word out that most of the the South Island - and indeed the country - was not affected by the quake.

"One of the things the Government can do is ... use all the channels that it has to inform traditional sources of tourism - China, Japan and Australia - that we're open for business."