Quake Response Not Nearly Urgent Enough

While the National government has pumped out promotional news on its “support” for quake-hit North Canterbury and Marlborough, it has neglected the people on the ground – hardworking New Zealanders.

“Many are struggling to survive the loss of passing through traffic and tourism trade over the summer,” says New Zealand First Leader and MP for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“Now winter is close, the government’s wage support for business has ended, and the outlook is bleak. In Kaikoura, for example, shops have few customers. One business reported taking only $38 in a day.

“The government’s response is heavy handed, it’s penny pinching against quake-affected New Zealanders who are not moaning, they just want to survive and keep their staff in work.

“The quake was a natural disaster and no-one’s fault.

“Remember, this is a government that paid over $200m out to Hollywood, hundreds of millions to Rio Tinto, bailed out their mates with deposits in South Canterbury Finance to the tune of $800 million and gave $42m annually to SkyCity.

“But when it came to quake-hit businesses they tied the wage support to insurance, and required any business receiving a payout to re-pay the subsidy. That’s a plain bad-spirited response.

“New Zealand First wants the government to boost its response:

• The wage support must be re-instated, on the basis of business income. The subsidy must run till late spring of 2018. In Kaikoura business owners do not anticipate a huge up spurt in trade even if State Highway One is open, as most tourists will be completing their bookings now.

• Kaikoura businesses working to revitalise the town with a re-start mall should be supported with a grant of $2.5 million so they can quickly get 20 containers in place before demolition of buildings starts. At least six businesses will lose their premises and need a new base. The re-start mall in Christchurch took 60 days, but six months on from the earthquake there’s nothing in Kaikoura.

• The government must financially support Kaikoura District Council, the smallest council in mainland New Zealand, to rebuild its infrastructure.

• The rate of progress on State Highway One must be increased.  Many slips and damaged sections of the road are not being worked on simultaneously. This must occur. More resources must be poured in and work should continue seven days a week.  There is a need for more oversight from the government to ensure that work is not being deliberately stretched out to skim as much profit as possible against the interests of locals and taxpayers.

• While KiwiRail is pushing to get the main trunk line open, it should be given the resources to rebuild in a resilient manner, by replacing older infrastructure and adding improvements.”