Frustrated Christchurch business owners have slammed a multimillion-dollar Government assistance package, saying their only hope of saving their firms is to be allowed past the earthquake cordons.

Many who have businesses in the worst-affected CBD areas are still unable to access their premises a month on from the deadly quake. Civil Defence officials did not give a timeline at a private meeting yesterday.

"So we are still in limbo," said Kishor Singh, who owns two buildings in the CBD's earthquake "red zone".

Government ministers yesterday reiterated that lives would not be risked to allow access to businesses.

Instead they tried to soothe the anxiety of the business community by announcing a $6.85 million package aimed at helping quake-affected business owners get back on their feet.

The package includes $2.5 million to help firms with professional services and relocation costs, $2 million to help exporters connect with overseas clients and $1.7 million to recruit "business recovery co-ordinators" to assess need and assist firms to get help.

Antiques dealer James Ayers said the package "sounds like more bureaucrats walking around in flash suits ... telling business owners how to suck eggs".

"What we need is access to our businesses now. My business is approximately 40m inside the red zone - I know I can walk there without any danger whatsoever. The businesses that have survived the quake are now being suffocated by Civil Defence incompetence."

Nicky Arts, who can't retrieve 16 tonnes of vital printing machinery from her business premises, said a business co-ordinator would not help.

"I know what I have to do. I need access. I don't want any money. I want to go back to work," she said.

"We are going bung at great speed. I'm turning work down hand over fist."

Tom Tayloryoung, who is unable to get stock from his collectors' shop, wants immediate action.

"We need to know have we got a business? Can we operate? We need to know now, not tomorrow. It's just like a slow death - every day our orders from overseas and all the rest dwindle away. People will go to markets that they can rely on."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the assistance package was the first in a series of initiatives to be announced in the months ahead. He said a process to allow more business owners access to the CBD was being looked at but was not going to happen quickly.

"It's very dangerous in there. We have already had a very large number of deaths ... and we don't want to have any further death or injury because we rush into the place when it is unsafe.

"While we understand the frustration of people who are seeing the buildings that are likely to come down with stock in them, I just ask them to consider whether their stock is worth their life."

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend was working to get certainty for business owners about whether they would be able to get access at all. "This is not a time for placard waving, it's a time for working together."