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."
The Christchurch Adventure Park has only been open about two months but now has to deal with a major crisis.
The park's communications manager, Anne Newman, said the fire was pretty much surrounding the entire property.
Firefighters were posted there overnight and had managed to prevent the flames reaching any of the buildings.
"They've done a great job and kept the fire at bay so the villiage and the base station of our chairlift have been protected," she said.
"Obviously there's fires throughout the rest of the park and we haven't been able to get in there to know the extent of the damage at this stage."
The chairlift was still working and they were keeping it running to try and prevent it getting too hot at any one point on the cable. No-one had been able to access the chairlift's top station there to see whether it had been damaged.
The company employs about 100 staff, and it was not clear when the park would be able to open, Newman said.
"Unfortunatly there's very little the staff can do at the moment. Obviously they've all got contracts in place and we're committed to honouring those contracts. While we've still got a park they're still employed, they just might have to be on cleanup duty for the next few weeks," she said.
"We're definitely committed to Christchurch and to reopening, but without going in and knowing what the damage is it's very difficult to say how long."
The park's insurance company had been notified.
Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism marketing general manager Angela Gordon said the only impacts on tourism in the region at this stage was the closure of the Adventure Park.
She doubted tourists would be put off heading to the region as a result of the fire.
"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."
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.
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