Business playing vital support role in quake recovery

Tuesday 14 September 2010, 5:02PM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development


Businesses have a role to support each other through the Canterbury earthquake recovery, hold onto staff wherever possible and support the community.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says it is pleased many businesses are taking a long-term and socially responsible view.

Business Council Chair Bob Field says business and the community have a shared interest in a quick recovery from the earthquake which is estimated to have caused up to $4 billion in damage.

Mr Field says many businesses have been contributing to help other firms, the community and individuals cope with the quake and recover from it.

“It’s appropriate to acknowledge contributions businesses are making to restore vital services, help their own business customers stay open, while, in some cases, managing their own recovery from damage to their own premises and manage badly affected staff. It speaks well of the role businesses are and should be playing,” Mr Field says.

Some of the actions taken by some include:

• free counseling and free paid special leave for staff affected emotionally, and those whose homes have been damaged, and who are trying to cope with the combined effect of after-shocks and lack of sleep whittling away at their nerves
• undertaking assessments of the structural damage for scores of businesses
• free structural damage assessments by engineers of employees’ homes
• offering assistance across all engineering disciplines to local authorities and other private companies
• volunteering staff to Civil Defence to assess structural damage, including making safety determinations on several important buildings including council offices and several heritage buildings.

Mr Field says Business Council Member New Zealand Post Group has undertaken a range of initiatives to assist the affected people in the Canterbury area including

• free redirections for two months for residential customers affected by the quake.
• providing the PostShop Kiwibank network for people to make donations to the New Zealand Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake Appeal, directly donating $50,000 to the Red Cross Appeal and supporting it with other free postal services
• offering a Kiwibank 'Quake Care' package which includes a three months repayment holiday on loans (including business banking loans), and $1,000 overdraft or increase of $1,000 to existing personal overdraft or revolving credit facility.
• Setting up a staff 'wellbeing' centre, providing staff with a range of services including IT support, counselling, insurance/ECQ claim support, Kiwibank/banking services and general information

Business council member Fonterra

• facilitated electricity generators for suppliers to enable milking
• supplied tankers to transport fresh water to city
• donated $1m to mayoral fund to assist with relief
• networked with suppliers to facilitate other help where required.

Business Council member BNZ has contributed to the emergency response and recovery in a number of ways:

A million dollar plus support programme including:
• $250,000 to Salvation Army
• $250,000 to Red Cross
• $250,000 to Mayoral Fund - subsequently rolled into Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake appeal fund
• $50,000 foodstuffs vouchers
• 12,000 bottles of water
• In addition, staff in the region have been given five extra days of paid volunteer leave to assist in the community recovery.
Customer assistance package includes:
• Immediate temporary funding for qualifying businesses of up to $500,000
• A temporary overdraft of $100,000 for 90 days for business customers
• All fees and margins waived for temporary funding
• Loan repayments suspended for up to 90 days
• Waiver of early withdrawal costs for term deposits to allow customers to access cash
• Access to temporary overdrafts for small businesses, housing, deposit and credit card customers for 90 days at 5% interest
• Penalty fees waived for late credit card payments
• Loans maybe suspended for 90 days with reassessment when required.
The above are just examples of a few members’ activities, but we are aware many businesses are taking a similar approach to the crisis.

“Just as businesses rely on the community for their customers and employees, equally businesses have a role in preserving the community. Businesses can’t succeed in societies that fail. It’s very pleasing that so many are taking this long term view,” Mr Field says.

“Over the past two years the Business Council has been researching the social role of business. This report is due to be published later this year. The response in Christchurch is an encouraging sign that this responsibility is already well recognised. The recovery task in Canterbury has been enhanced by the Government’s quick response to the crisis and this should also help the local community to start to rebuild.”