Christchurch businesses that have had their legs cut out from under them won’t appreciate being given the news by a social welfare minister, says Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesman Clayton Cosgrove.
“These businesses aren’t recipients of welfare,” Clayton Cosgrove said. “Neither are their staff members. They have been puckerood by the September and February quakes, and now many of them won’t be able to restart for reasons beyond their control.”
Clayton Cosgrove said Prime Minister John Key had promised no one would be left worse off after the quakes. “No one is arguing that the support package should go on for ever, but it is still only little more than three months since the shattering February quake. There is no way many businesses could recover in that time, particularly those with equipment and records trapped in the red zone.
“Businesses were originally told the package would end on 31 May, but it hasn’t been replaced with anything other than the dole.”
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had been given wartime powers, his own government department and a bucketful of cash to deal with the aftermath of the quakes, Clayton Cosgrove said.
“And yet it was Social Development Minister Paula Bennett who was forced to announce yesterday that the Government’s business support package is heading to the scrapheap from tomorrow. Hundreds of businesses and thousands of staff may be consigned to the scrapheap along with it.
“As far as Canterbury is concerned, the business support package has never been a welfare programme. So where was Gerry Brownlee at yesterday’s announcement? He was nowhere to be seen,” Clayton Cosgrove said.
“It is ironic that the decision to can the package came on the same day that the Government also announced a ministerial welfare working group is being set up. The Government has just consigned thousands more Cantabrians to welfare, and almost certainly cut the lifeline for many hundreds of businesses.
“This is a heartless decision for those businesses. It is even more so because the Minister with wartime powers didn’t front, and because the Government has slipped its decision under the rug.”