Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Tourism firms welcome $7.5m relief package

Some larger businesses, such as Whale Watch Kaikoura, will not qualify for Government's post-quake relief package. Photo / Brian Betts, Whale Watch Kaikoura
Some larger businesses, such as Whale Watch Kaikoura, will not qualify for Government's post-quake relief package. Photo / Brian Betts, Whale Watch Kaikoura

Quake-hit South Island businesses which are facing a tourist season without highway access say a Government relief package is a good start.

But if tourism and aquaculture businesses in and around Kaikoura are to survive until next summer, further support could be required, business owners said.

The Labour Party also raised concerns about limiting relief to small companies, saying that it would exclude important industries such as whale-watching.

Under a $7.5m business package announced by the Government yesterday, 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.

South Bay Fishing Charters owner Ian Croucher said the local business community had generally responded positively to the relief package.

"It won't be enough to support everybody," said. "But it will get us through the next little while - it's a fantastic start."

With Kaikoura's highway access cut off by landslips, Croucher said the upcoming tourist season was already "history". Some businesses would need a minimum of 12 months' support "or we could lose them", he said.

Croucher said he also wanted banks to "step up". Residents were concerned about their ability to pay mortgages and other debt during a difficult season, he said.

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby also welcomed the relief package. He hoped Government support would eventually be extended to 12 weeks, as it was in Christchurch after the 2011 quakes.

Joyce said an extension was a possibility. The Government first wanted to get a better understanding of the damage to roads and the coastline.

The Government's business support package was modelled on a similar scheme for Christchurch. Joyce said the main issue in Christchurch was whether business could physically stay open.

"In Kaikoura it was whether there was any business left to conduct."

Companies in Wellington, Picton and Blenheim would not get access to the subsidy.

Wellington businesses were in a different position to employers in the South Island, Joyce said.

- NZ Herald

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