Businesses open but counting their costs
Canterbury businesses, including plantation owners, are scrambling to assess the value of losses as a result of the Port Hills fires.
McVicar Timber, a Christchurch-based timber and sawmilling company with plantations in the Port Hills is among those counting the costs.
McVicar Timber managing director John McVicar said his company had lost pine plantations worth millions of dollars, although they were insured.
He said firefighters seemed to be well in control yesterday. There were more firefighters, diggers making fire breaks and bigger helicopters using more water reservoirs.
‘‘There’s a lot less fuel to burn now anyway,’’ McVicar said.
Meanwhile, Canterbury business leaders are busy explaining to overseas stakeholders and some New Zealand media that Christchurch is not going up in flames.
‘‘The impression from some of the photos is that the city is engulfed in a furnace,’’ Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce Peter Townsend said.
‘‘I’ve had phone calls from journalists in Shanghai and one from Auckland asking how badly damaged the city is. It’s kind of ‘here we go again for poor old Christchurch’,’’ Townsend said. ‘‘There’s a lot of international interest so it’s important to get the message out that we’re open for business.
‘‘We’ve also asked employers to please be sympathetic to staff and if necessary be flexible about work practices for affected people,’’ Townsend said.
Governors Bay hotel manager Kathleen Scott said the pub was quiet because the main road to Dyers Pass meant the only access was from the road to Lyttelton.
But staff had prepared 40 meal packs for firefighters and some ‘‘kind person’’ had put $1000 on the bar for meals and drinks for them.
The just-reopened Sign of the Kiwi cafe has been spared but business is suspended by road closures. Fire swept through the recently opened $24m Christchurch Adventure Park but the gondola and other infrastructure have escaped destruction.
The city council-owned Orion lines company has yet to evaluate costs of replacing more than 20 poles and possible revenue loss from service interruptions to east Christchurch.
Electricity lines in the fireaffected area remain off-grid, and power continues to be re-routed, including through Orion’s new underground, Northern Loop cable.
Orion has asked businesses and residents to conserve power where ever possible, to reduce the load on the network while it is in ‘‘contingency mode’’.
Christchurch International Airport had issued ‘‘business as usual’’ messages.
Spokeswoman Yvonne Densem said the airline schedules on the airport website showed no interruptions to normal services.
‘‘We’ve been talking with Tourism New Zealand about getting the message out that it’s contained to one area and the state of emergency is about harnessing all the necessary powers to fight it,’’ she said.
One of the airport’s fire trucks had been dispatched to the hills to help.
Businesses whose services have been in strong demand include helicopter companies fighting the blazes with monsoon buckets.
Some crews which had been working on sluicing Kaikoura slips have been diverted to work on the Port Hills.
Many property owners, such as the owners of the Valley of Peace wedding venue, have yet to regain access to evaluate losses.
The chief executive of the NZ Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Dieter Adam, said none of his members had reported significant problems, although some may have been affected by power outages.
Trees burn in the Port Hills above Christchurch on Wednesday night. The view is west from Dyers Pass Rd.