29 Nov 2016

Make sure quake help gets to 'mum and dad' firms, govt told

8:21 am on 29 November 2016

The government is being told to keep a close eye on smaller quake-affected Wellington businesses to ensure they get the help they need to stay afloat.

Ten buildings on Courtenay Place in Wellington's CBD have been evacuated.

Emergency services helping evacuate buildings in Wellington's CBD three days after the 7.8 earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

A business quake relief package offered to Kaikōura businesses was yesterday extended to the capital.

It provides a subsidy to pay staff for up to eight weeks, giving pay $500 gross per week for a full-time employee and $300 for a part-time employee.

So far, 60 businesses in Kakōura have taken up the offer, costing $600,000.

The government expects more than 50 companies in the Wellington region to be eligible; about a dozen on Molesworth Street, 15-20 on Tory Street, and a larger number around Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt.

Labour's Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson is concerned smaller firms may not be covered.

29062016 Photo RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King. Grant Robertson

Grant Roberston wants assurances smaller firms are covered. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"I'm thinking here particularly of the sole traders or so-called 'mum and dad' businesses."

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce had said self-employed owners would be covered but that was not clear in the package, Mr Roberston said.

He said the subsidy would be a welcome relief for owners and save jobs and struggling businesses.

"Certainly I know a number of people have had to let staff go, when they see this package hopefully they will either be able to stop that process or bring those staff back on board.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the government should ensure small businesses did not fail as a result of the quake.

"It is quite tightly targeted and I am concerned that there will be businesses that are affected by the quake that aren't going to be able, within the current boundaries of this package, to receive any aid."

Though Labour and business started asking for a support package since last week, Mr Joyce said the government had not dragged its feet.

Information it wanted last week from Wellington did not come through until Thursday, he said.

"We've said all the way through that it's a flexible package, designed to respond to changing circumstances, and that's what is happening in this case."

The government has set aside $7.5 million for the business relief packages in Wellington and Kaikoura.

Mr Joyce said this would be reviewed before Christmas and more funding would be available if required.

Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley

Steven Joyce and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announcing the original business support for Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ

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