Whales return to Kaikoura

4:06 pm on 20 November 2016

Kaikoura's Whale Watch has spotted the first whales off the coast since Monday's earthquake, as the mayor there expressed confidence his town can return to its booming tourism status soon.

One of five whales spotted off the Kaikoura coast a week after the earthquakes.

One of five whales spotted off the Kaikoura coast a week after the earthquakes. Photo: Supplied / Whale Watch

Whale Watch said in a tweet today that its boats had spotted the first whale tail since the quakes.

"Great seeing our Tohora today. 5 in total at the end," the company tweeted.

At a town meeting yesterday, Kairkoura district mayor Winston Gray said people's minds were already starting to shift from response to recovery mode.

Kaikoura earthquake - Kaikoura township

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

His predecessor, Danny Smith, has been appointed in a new role of Recovery Manager, and will work within the council.

Mr Smith will lead separate liaison managers with different roles, such as economic recovery, environmental recovery, and rural recovery.

"We need everybody to get back to Kaikoura, as new," he said.

He told the town meeting it was vital people outside of Kaikoura knew the town had not been completely wrecked.

He criticised some media outlets for painting a picture that was bleaker than the reality.

Mr Gray agreed, and said the key was restoring access from State Highway 1.

Winston Gray, Kaikoura District Mayor.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"We've got to get back up-and-running as soon as we possibly can," he said.

"With the speed of media today, spread across the globe, saying the town is wrecked - it is not wrecked, our infrastructure is damaged, but some of our operators could be going again within a couple of weeks."

It was hoped the inland route via Waiau and Culverden would be open by this weekend but that had since been pushed back to the middle of this week.

Even if the road was made passable by then, access would be limited.

John Key talks to Kaikoura business owners in his second visit to the town since the big quake.

John Key talked to Kaikoura business owners in his second visit to the town since the big quake. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Carol Johnston runs a mail order business out of Kaikoura and has 50 parcels waiting to be delivered to customers.

"They don't know when they're going to get the back road - the inland road - open," she said.

"And even when they have it open, when is it going to be open to courier services and such, any freight companies, anybody?"

Mr Gray said some accommodation businesses were already taking bookings for the Christmas period, and other businesses could be back up-and-running in weeks.

He said the whole town must stay positive.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee told a town meeting Kaikoura had the full support of the government.

John Key visited business owners in Kaikoura

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"The government isn't going to walk away and say 'we'll see what happens' - we didn't do that in Christchurch and we won't do that here," he said.

"You can expect to see [the Prime Minister, John Key] back here in the future."

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