Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

First-response centre for Wellington business

A first-response centre will be set up for Wellington businesses as the capital comes to terms with the financial impact of the week's devastating earthquakes.

Many business owners have had to put contingencies in place in order remain operational as their buildings are assessed. Staff from financial consultancy company Deloitte, for example, are working from home, while other businesses are setting up shop in alternative buildings.

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) chief executive Chris Whelan said the organisation hoped to set up a first-response centre today to give affected business owners a place to go to get support.

This may consist of a telephone hotline and email address, or else establishing a drop-in centre somewhere like the Michael Fowler Centre.

He said most businesses were still operating but many were having to make changes.

For example, WREDA was currently looking at possibly accommodating an electricity company in its building.

"If we can't accommodate them directly we'll coordinate with our landlords across the city. I've certainly heard of other organisations that are being accommodated in different buildings," he said.

"There was a very large IT business that got hold of me overnight. Their business continuity plan has kicked in so they've got people working remotely, with everything up in the cloud. I must say I haven't heard of terribly many businesses that aren't able to work, although they may be working slightly differently."

He said they hoped to have a clearer picture of how businesses were affected, including how many were completely unable to operate, by the end of the day.

"For the most part what we're seeing is that businesses are getting back up. If you walk around the city it's looking entirely normal.

Watch: Structural damage in Wellington

Video

"Wellington as a city is massively collaborative and that's what we're seeing coming through here ... with people helping each other and businesses helping other businesses."

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said because of the nature of many Wellington's businesses, a high number of employees were able to work from home.

"There's a high number of service and administration industries in the city which lends itself to that so whilst buildings may be closed an assumption that businesses are closed is not actually correct. So it's hard to get a handle on exactly how many businesses are not able to operate," he said.

"If you walk down Lambton Quay, I'd say 99 per cent of retailers are back open again ... and what those businesses need is obviously people so ... getting workers back into the city is the key to vitality in the CBD."

Milford was not concerned about what the quake could mean for Christmas retail, which he said usually did not begin in earnest until December 1.

- NZ Herald

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