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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Owners may soon return to cordoned off businesses

Owners may soon return to cordoned off businesses

By Christopher Adams
5:30 AM Wednesday Mar 2, 2011
The cordoned-off area of central Christchurch may be cut back within the next four days, says a local business leader.

Paul Lonsdale, manager of Christchurch's Central City Business Association, has talked with Civil Defence about reducing the cordon area.

Parts of the city within the four avenues - Deans, Moorhouse, Fitzgerald and Bealey - are at present off-limits.

Lonsdale said initial access to newly opened areas would be strictly controlled, as businesses had been left unsecured last week, when the quake struck.

Business owners would be allowed into the area first, in order to secure their buildings, before the general public was allowed access, he said.

Lonsdale said areas closer to the very centre of the city, around Cathedral Square, would take much longer to open up.

A lot of demolition work was taking place in that area, which suffered large-scale destruction in the quake.

"We're working on a plan right now of how we can manage that demolition and re-open key parts of central city," said Lonsdale.

That process could take "some months".

"We do need to start getting [that area] opened up because a third of the city's workforce is out of work and within six weeks there will be no pay coming in unless some other package comes from the Government."

John Walley, chief executive of the Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the Government's support package for Christchurch workers and businesses, announced on Monday night, would be a "bridge to nowhere" if Canterbury's economy was not swiftly resurrected.

As part of the six-week assistance package, eligible employers will receive a payment of $500 gross per week for each full-time employee, paid to the affected worker. Part-time workers will receive $300 gross per week.

Key to the economic recovery would be allowing businesspeople to access their buildings located behind the cordons and retrieve vital equipment, such as computer hard-drives.

Walley said a specific protocol around how businesspeople could gain access to those buildings was required.

"Clearly that means some sort of queuing system, some sort of priority system and then some sort of accompanied supervision," Walley said.

"Civil Defence told me yesterday [Monday] that some kind of protocol was under development."

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