Ex­ports and tourism fight to re­cover af­ter NZ quake

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Parts of New Zealand’s key ex­port in­dus­tries and its vi­tal tourism sec­tor are bat­tling to get back on track a month af­ter a deadly earthquake rocked the nation, crip­pling roads and slow­ing shipping. At one of the coun­try’s main ports in Welling­ton, ‘no-en­try’ signs dot parts of the site hit by liq­ue­fac­tion, crack­ing or buck­ling, ham­per­ing ship­ments of items like meat and farm pro­duce to des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing China and Aus­tralia. While 150 km away in the re­sort town of Kaik­oura, of­ten touted as the nation’s whale-watch­ing capital, restau­rants and ho­tels lie nearly empty as the roads that once car­ried in bus­loads of tourists through steep moun­tains re­main closed.

Welling­ton’s port and Kaik­oura are at the fore­front of fall­out from the Nov. 14 quake, which New Zealand’s cen­tral bank has ini­tially es­ti­mated will cost the NZ$250 bil­lion ($180 bil­lion) econ­omy up to NZ$8 bil­lion. “We are im­por­tant to the re­gional econ­omy, so it is im­por­tant to re­sume (full) oper­a­tions soon,” said Derek Nind, CEO of Cen­trePort Welling­ton, the port in the coun­try’s capital which lies about 480 km from the epi­cen­tre of mag­ni­tude-7.8 tem­blor that killed two peo­ple. “We need to think how we build re­silience into our ports. I am try­ing to get world ex­perts to help us on that.”

Nind added that the port, which han­dled trade worth NZ$3.3 bil­lion in 2015, was un­likely to run at full throt­tle un­til April, al­though it did man­age to par­tially re­sume some oper­a­tions in the days af­ter the quake. Ma­jor prob­lems at the site in­clude con­tainer shipping and cold stor­age that re­main out of bounds, while Nind’s own of­fice is also in a no-go zone. Nind said it was not yet pos­si­ble to as­sess how much business would be lost due to the quake. One sign of progress comes as the port says its key log shipping oper­a­tions are “back to nor­mal” in De­cem­ber af­ter they were hit the month be­fore.

That is good news for com­pa­nies that rely on the port as one of the main shipping points for New Zealand’s rapidly grow­ing forestry in­dus­try, its third-largest ex­port earner be­hind dairy and meat. “Novem­ber will prob­a­bly be our weak­est month on cal­en­dar, al­though things have started to flow back now,” said Steve Wil­ton, CEO of Master­ton­based For­est En­ter­prises Ltd, the nation’s No.1 Forestry in­vest­ment firm. He said that the com­pany had been di­vert­ing some of its logs to nearby Port Napier, but that had caused ad­di­tional cost and de­lays.

Mean­while, Philip Gre­gan, CEO of wine in­dus­try body NZ Wine said that one in five tanks in the pro­duc­ing re­gion of Marl­bor­ough had been dam­aged dur­ing the earthquake. That has left wine­mak­ers scram­bling to find tem­po­rary stor­age or ship wine out to be stored else­where to en­sure the 2017 vin­tage is not af­fected. New Zealand’s wine ex­ports are worth NZ$1.6 bil­lion and grow­ing fast in mar­kets like China and the United States. “They’ve got a lot of work to do and they’re work­ing very hard to make it all hap­pen. They would have loved if this earthquake had never hap­pened, life would have been a hell of a lot eas­ier - but that’s not what hap­pened,” Gre­gan said. —Reuters

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