Busi­nesses open but count­ing their costs

The Press - - Front Page - CHRIS HUTCH­ING

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.

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