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Finance Minister Bill English has asked banks and the Inland Revenue Department to be flexible to help businesses stay afloat and still be able to pay wages in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake.

But he said employers will have to make their own decisions and some people might lose their jobs.

"Some of them will be in a sound enough position that they can expect to continue to pay [wages]. Some will have to make pretty quick decisions so employees have certainty either that they're employed or they're not.

"The great uncertainty is just how long it's going to take for these businesses to be able to get back up and running."

IRD could be flexible about payments and banks could be flexible with overdrafts and mortgage payments to help businesses stay afloat and continue to pay wages, he said.

"A number of [banks] have announced payment holidays [on mortgage payments]. It means for a period of weeks or months, you don't pay but as I understand it you're still accumulating interest on those payments."

Those who lose jobs may find a new one quickly because of the reconstruction work.

He said the Government might have to borrow more money to deal with the reconstruction.

"The good news is that it there is extensive insurance in place ... and private insurers have reassured us they have the capacity to deal with the claims.

"People are going to be stressed. They've suffered with the shock of the earthquake itself, plus the ongoing uncertainty about their housing, about their job and about their business."

The Government may also step in to help out farmers, but the extent of underground damage to farming systems was not yet known.

Agriculture Minster David Carter said there were no animal welfare issues and power had been restored to most of rural Canterbury.

"The next big issue is how much structural damage occurred below the ground - irrigation main lines, wells - we simply don't know. We're letting the farmers get their electricity back so they can test those systems.

"It's unclear the magnitude of the problem, and depending on the extent of that they may be asking for assistance from the Government."

Grain silos had been tipped over and dairy sheds had been damaged, but farmers were working together to solve problems.

"We know of one farm designed for 400 cows that milked 2000 cows in the first 24 hours. So farmers are cooperating with their neighbours."

Some roads were still damaged, but there were enough working roads to enable alternative ways to get to farms.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said workers who temporarily couldn't work because of the earthquake might qualify for Government assistance.

About 5000 calls had been received by the Government's 0800 77 999 7.

Bennett said a fund for civic emergencies was available to cover things like food and clothing for those who could not return to their homes.

The fund could also help those who had lost income because they can not work.

"And also payments that can be made via work and income, so please talk to us if you're experiencing hardship."

She said the Government had contacted 11,000 of 18,000 elderly people living on their own, and was still trying to contact the remaining 7000.

"If you've taken someone into your home, could you get hold of us and let us know that they're okay?"