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NZ Nationals call for support after Nelson fires

New Zealand National MPs Nick Smith, MP for Nelson, and Maureen Pugh are calling for the Government to establish a business support fund similar to that used following other disasters to help small businesses and contractors affected by the recent New Zealand fires and ongoing extreme conditions. Source: Timberbiz

“We have been approached by many small and medium enterprises who need support to get through this disaster,” Dr Smith said.

“These are tourism operators providing biking tours but which are shut out by the ban on access to forests and reserves, agricultural, civil and forestry contractors whose work supply has ceased due to the civil defence ban on such activities and others whose business access has been interrupted by the fires.

“These businesses are still having to pay wages, they are bleeding financially and with the ongoing extreme conditions may have little work or income for many weeks.

“We are recommending to the Government the successful model National used to help businesses get through previous disasters. The wage subsidy package provided after the Kaikoura and Canterbury earthquakes helped thousands of businesses to retain jobs and helped the communities’ wider recovery.

“The subsidy did not fully protect the businesses from the impacts but the NZ$500 per week provided for fulltime employees and NZ$300 for part-time employees helped them get through without dismissing staff,” Dr Smith said.

According to the New Zealand Herald Forestry Minister Shane Jones said that he had been advised that the cost of lost production and earnings was to be estimated at around NS$2 million a day as the Nelson fires were preventing forestry crews from working. It was stated that up to 30 forestry crews of up to 240 workers had been stood down.

Additionally, it was stated that two sawmills had been closed due to the fires but the affects of the fires would be felt for many years to come.

The extent of the fire damage to the forests and plantations has yet to be evaluated as a state of emergency continues to exist in the area.

“We believe this fire, the largest in New Zealand for 60 years, and the uncertainty of when significant rain will occur means this support is needed and justified,” Mrs Pugh said.

“This recovery support will complement the Mayoral Relief Fund and the welfare support available for affected families from the Ministry of Social Development.

“The separate business support is about protecting jobs in an unsettling environment where no one knows how long it will be before full access to the forests and reserves will be restored and the ban on contracting activities revoked.

“We commend the overall effort that local and central Government has put into this emergency in Nelson and Tasman and particularly congratulate Fire and Emergency New Zealand. We’ve got most people into their homes and this proposed business support package is about ensuring we maintain their jobs,” Mrs Pugh said.