Fisheries closures possible as $5m relief package for farming and fishing industries confirmed

The coastline near Kaikoura could be closed to fishing to help stocks survive and recover after earthquakes dramatically altered the landscape.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is expecting further advice over the weekend, and said the temporary closure of fisheries could be necessary.

Paua and crayfish habitats were particularly hard hit, Guy said, with the seabed lifted up to four metres in places.

Speaking to reporters at Parliament after announcing a $5 million support package for farmers and the fishing industry in the upper South Island, Guy said he hoped to get scientists into the water soon to make assessments.

"We will work through it in a very considered way...if we make a closure it will have an impact, not just on this community but further afield.

"But if you step back from that and think about the long-term sustainability of this fishery, it's fundamental that it rebuilds. How do we do that, well, we are going to need to look at a temporary closure."

Guy toured Kaikoura and North Canterbury yesterday.

"With the moon at the moment, nobody is quite sure what is the new norm for where the tide is going to settle. What I saw yesterday were big chunks of reef out of the water...all of those shellfish, paua and lobster that were in that sea rise are now dead."

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Guy said the package was "only a first step". It includes:

• $4 million for Mayoral disaster relief funds in Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough to help with non-insurable assets such as tracks, bridges on farms and water infrastructure.
• $500,000 to support rural recovery coordinators.
• $500,000 rural support trusts, which organise support and community events.
• $200,000 a month to "mobilise and support skilled primary industry students and workers" for farm recovery work.
• Emergency Work and Income NZ payments for farmers in hardship.

Guy said the earthquakes had been a "real blow" to North Canterbury, given the area had suffered from drought for nearly three years.

The Government yesterday confirmed a $7.5 million business package, under which local businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be able to get wage subsidies for up to eight weeks.

The subsidy is limited to those directly affected by blocked roads or the disturbed seabed, including Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward.

The support package was modelled on a similar scheme for Christchurch. Companies in Wellington, Picton and Blenheim would not get the subsidy.

• The 0800 779 997 Government helpline has been activated to assist people needing financial and other support following the November 14 earthquake.

Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black said this morning that the quake response effort was "beginning to move towards recovery".

- NZ Herald

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