Hanmer Springs locals and business owners are amazed that the alpine tourist village near the epicentre of Monday's massive earthquake has escaped any major damage.

The North Canterbury town was cut-off after the giant magnitude-7.8 quake and subsequent aftershocks over fears the old wooden Waiau Ferry Bridge was unsafe. Slips and rockfall had also come down on the road.

However, the bridge was opened on late Monday afternoon for a few hours to let some tourists and locals out.

It was then fully re-opened and the road cleared on Tuesday.


The popular thermal hot pools was closed until later on Monday while staffed checked out some minor damage.

Now, the town is counting its lucky stars to have escaped so unscathed.

"It really is unbelievable," says Graeme Abbot, general manager of Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.

"People are stunned with many remarking that you can't even tell there has been an earthquake in the village.

"But most of all we're grateful - the fact our place is okay means Hanmer Springs locals have been able to swing into collecting donations and helping other communities, like Waiau, who are suffering."

Visitor numbers are "understandably" down by around 80 per cent this week.

But Abbot says their losses are "nothing compared to what others are going through".

"That said, tourism is the lifeblood of Hanmer Springs and we do need to make sure we work to make sure the losses aren't long term," he added.

"Particularly given our owners, the Hurunui District Council, are going to need income from us to help repair all of the damage that has been done."

The Hanmer Springs' Business Association said there have been some cancellations in the village already.

Association chair Christian Chester said the town needs to ensure it's not a long-term situation.

All of the businesses in the village are now open and operating "basically as normal".

"We're so surprised and can't explain why we have come out so unscathed. We are very very very lucky - and we're touching wood when we say that," Chester said.

"The last thing our tourism-dependent economy needs is for people to stay away.

"We're gutted for Kaikoura - it is heartbreaking to see the losses there. We are also doing what we can to look after tourist groups that were due to go there - it is important for the country's tourism sector as a whole that those visitors have somewhere to stay and things to do. We're doing what we can to provide that."

The local Waipara wine industry also escaped major damage.

All wineries and restaurants in the region are now open.

"We are so relieved to have escaped major damage but, more importantly, deeply saddened by what those most-affected are going through - including our wine industry colleagues in Marlborough. The losses are awful," says Paul Donaldson, chair of the Waipara Valley Winegrowers' Association.

"Our area is largely unaffected, all the wineries and restaurants are open again and the last thing we need is for people to stay away. Tourism is a major contributor to our local economy."

Australian tourists, Nicholas Matthews, sons Noah, 8, and Finn, 12, and wife Bronwen rode out their first ever quakes in Hanmer Springs.

They were midway through a six-week campervan tour of New Zealand when the quake hit.

"It was pretty full on... frightening," Nicholas said.

Quake-hardened Christchurch visitors told them it had been a big one.

There was an "exodus" of tourists on Monday afternoon, Nicholas said.

They decided to stay until they got more clarity around the scale of the disaster.
On Tuesday, they went mountain biking.

"After all, that's what we came here for," Nicholas said.