$7.5m in initial Govt support for quake-affected businesses
Businesses can get $500/week per full-time employee
Available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees in Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward
Lasts for eight weeks, could be extended

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 this afternoon, 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.

Civil Defence said yesterday that bad weather was hampering the reopening of the inland route into Kaikoura. Access via the coastal route, on State Highway One, was likely to be blocked by landslips for months.

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."

The minister was challenged in Parliament by Labour MP David Clark, who asked how the Government was supporting businesses with more than 20 workers, such as Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Joyce said larger businesses had more capacity to absorb the hit so were not included. But he would not rule out further changes to the relief package.

The subsidy would be for all businesses, whether insured or not. Those with continuity insurance would have to use that first "but it applies to everybody", Joyce said.

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.

"The whole of Kaikoura and a number of surrounding areas are literally out of business for a period of time."