Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Kaikoura businesses worried about the summer ahead, as Govt prepares relief package

Kaikoura businesses which have been cut off by landslips say they may need to be supported by the Government for up to a year if they are to stay afloat.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce is expected to announce a business support package today for local businesses and the 800 workers in the township, which was near the epicentre of Monday's magnitude 7.8 quake.

"The real focus will be how we sustain employment through a tough period," he said yesterday.

The quake has created major difficulties for Kaikoura's two biggest industries, tourism and aquaculture, because highway access has been blocked and the seabed disturbed.

As the tourist season kicks off, Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby said businesses were worried.

"Summer's coming up, and what do we do? It should be our busiest period and what do we do?"

The owner of Kaikoura Cheese, Daniel Jenkins, said the quake's timing could not be worse. His business made most of its income in the next three to four months, which helped it get through the "lean" winter months.

"We need to be looked after until November," he said.

The family business, which employs eight people, has ground to a halt since Monday. With no access to water, staff cannot make cheese. And with highway access blocked, they have no tourists coming in the door and no products being trucked out.

Jenkins has been through it all before. The family moved the business to Kaikoura to escape the Christchurch quakes in 2010 and 2011.

"We've only just got back on our feet," he said.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Kaikoura business package would be similar to the relief offered to Christchurch businesses in 2011.

In that case, the Government subsidised employers for up to 11 weeks to keep staff on and paid employees who had lost their jobs because their workplace had closed.

Businesses were given $500 a week for each employee, and jobless people were given $400 a week.

Tax breaks were also possible for Kaikoura, Key said.

Help is also on the way for the whale-watching industry, which is concerned it might only be able to launch boats at high-tide because the seabed has lifted.

Key said it was likely the Government would pass emergency law changes to allow dredging of the Kaikoura coast without the need for a time-consuming resource consent. He did not want to abuse Government powers, he said, but he believed most people would agree with the measure.

Joyce said the business package would not extend to Wellington, Blenheim or Picton.

These centres had not been dramatically affected by the quake, he said, and would recover quickly.

- NZ Herald

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