Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

Canterbury employers must be flexible: Chamber of Commerce

Employers need to be flexible and allow staff to tend to their families and properties in the wake of the Port Hills fire, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says. Photo / Instagram
Employers need to be flexible and allow staff to tend to their families and properties in the wake of the Port Hills fire, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says. Photo / Instagram

Employers need to be flexible and allow staff to tend to their families and properties in the wake of the Port Hills fire, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says.

A State of Emergency has been declared as a result of vicious 1850ha blaze on the Port Hills above Christchurch. About 1000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, at least eight homes have been destroyed, and there have been widespread power outages and road closures. Helicopter pilot Steve Askin lost his life fighting the blaze.

As far as business goes, the biggest impact appears to have been at the recently-opened Christchurch Adventure Park, which is in the path of the fire.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it did not appear that many other businesses had been affected at this stage.

"The fire's contained on the Port Hills -- it's nothing to do with the city itself -- and there will be people living on the hills who will be seriously inconvenienced but the rest of the city is getting on with the job," he said.

Townsend urged employers to accommodate the needs of workers impacted by the blaze.

"What we've learned from our earthquake experiences is that there's a need for employers to be really flexible in circumstances like this. So there will be people who will want to look after their properties, look after their families, make sure their properties are as secure as they can be, and of course I will expect all employers to make good concessions to their employees to allow them to do that," he said.

"I do know that in post-earthquake Christchurch there has been a lot of flexibility for employees when they need to get on and do other things, and I would fully expect that to be happening at this time."

He did not expect the fire to impact business in the long-term.

"There's potentially going to be some short-term inconvenience but where I am right now you wouldn't know there's a fire going on -- it's very contained, it's in a very discrete part of the hills, and people are just getting on with things."

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism marketing general manager Angela Gordon said the only impacts on tourism in the region at this stage were the closure of the Adventure Park and the Christchurch Gondola. The Gondola was not immediately at risk but had been closed as a precaution, she said.

At the Adventure Park, firefighters were surrounding the village in case the fire came too close. All the buildings were unscathed and the chairlift was still running.

"Otherwise, the airport is fully operational and flights are still coming in. We don't have any cruise ships coming into Akaroa until next week and Akaroa's fine," Gordon said.

"We're just treating tourists the same as residents. The residents have been told not to go to the hills to have a look because that creates bottlenecks, so we're urging people not to see the fire as a tourist attraction."

She doubted tourists would be put off heading to the region as a result of the fire.

Prime Minister Bill English told Radio New Zealand this morning that he was yet to consider whether there would be any kind of relief package for affected businesses.

"I honestly don't know, haven't considered that at all yet," he said.

Has the fire impacted your business? Email matthew.theunissen@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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