Business leaders in Christchurch have been told the cordon surrounding the central business district is to be reduced.
The cordon remains in place around four of the main avenues in the central city following a devastating earthquake on 22 February.
Civil Defence is working on a plan to allow people to retrieve cars and property from buildings in the disaster area.
Spokesperson Richard Brewer says the core of the cordon will remain for some time, but Civil Defence understands the need to reduce it as safely and as quickly as possible.
About a third of the population works in central Christchurch and some businesses cannot get access to computer equipment and important documents in order to be able to operate outside the CBD.
Christchurch Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale says the leaders were told on Thursday the cordon would be released in stages, starting with the west side in the next day or so.
Mr Lonsdale says business owners and residents will be able to enter, but will have to provide proof of address.
Among affected businesses, lawyers have said they need to retrieve wills for clients with missing relatives.
Canterbury-Westland Law Society president Allister Davis says lawyers need to retrieve computer servers and documents from their safes. He says three hours should be enough time to allow them to collect important information.