Tough outlook for earthquaked towns

The towns worst affected by this week’s earthquakes are having to deal with massive problems with damaged houses and wrecked infrastructure.

One of the biggest problems facing their recovery will be business, and that is affected substantially by inaccessibility due to wrecked roads, especially in Kaikoura.

Getting good access from the south will be difficult enough (a rough inland road for emergency access only has been opened) but getting a through road will be a major challenge.

kaikouraroadslip

One of a number of landslides blocking the Kaikoura coast road.

RNZ: Kaikoura fears becoming a ghost town if State Highway 1 ‘lifeline’ stays closed

Kaikoura business owners say the town could die once the relief runs out, and only reopening State Highway One will save it.

SH1, the main route to Kaikoura from the north and south, is closed. It sustained significant damage, with cracks, fissures and landslides. The New Zealand Transport Agency said restoring full access would take several months.

Damage to sea life, the fisheries industry and wildlife will affect the town’s biggest tourists attractions, such as whale watching, dolphin encounters and the seal colony.

Kaikoura will be badly affected without tourism. They are certain to lose this summer’s trade.

Dwayne Fussell owns Coastal Sports. He has lived in the town for 15 years and is raising a family.

The town’s businesses were seasonal. They made money over summer and struggled through winter, he said.

“If you don’t make that [money] through the December, January months, you’re not here the following summer.

Only reopening SH1 would bring the visitors back, he said. If the tourists stayed away, the businesses would disappear.

“SH1 is our lifeline. We need it,” he said.

Unless the main highway is reopened right up the coast to allow through traffic – and months to repair it looks very optimistic – then Kaikoura is in trouble.

Even when the highway is reinstated they will require costly repairs and re-establishment of facilities. Some of the coastal fisheries and wildlife will have been badly affected by the earthquake, but it is unknown at this stage how the big draw cards, the dolphins and especially the whales will have been affected.

And even with facilities and roads restored they will have to overcome fears and a reluctance of tourists to venture down a very risky looking coastline.

Hamner Springs is another town reliant on tourism. Even though they weren’t far from the first earthquake epicentre the town was remarkably unscathed and has reopened for business, but through a combination of fear of more earthquakes and a lack of coastal through traffic they are suffering.

Newshub: Hanmer Springs a ‘ghost town’ – business owners

Hanmer Springs businesses are desperate for tourists to visit after a large drop in numbers following Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake.

The quake was centred about 25km southeast of Hanmer Springs, but despite its proximity, the village suffered very little damage.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa general manager Graeme Abbott says there’s been a noticeable drop in visitors.

On a “normal day”, he would expect between 500-600 visitors, but on Tuesday he only had around 150.

“It’s gradually climbing up but still nowhere near what we would usually expect,” Mr Abbott says.

“The reality is we had a major earthquake here and power outages and road closures so people couldn’t get here, but that’s all cleared up now.”

Mr Abbott says there is no need for people to stay away from Hanmer Springs.

“The village is undamaged. All the businesses are open.”

In time it mightn’t be so bad for Hamner as the detour south runs near them – in fact it might improve things for them as tourism flows pick up.

But Kaikoura especially, and other towns and regions on the coastal route like Cheviot and the Waipara wine region to the south will find business tough for a year or two at least.

To the north some Marlborough vineyards and wineries were damaged by the earthquakes, and the Picton to Christchurch detour route that goes nearly to the West Coast and back across Lewis Pass, bypasses Blenheim so they are also likely to be affected there.

It’s interesting to see Google Maps and the AA Route Finder showing the detour rather than the munted coast road already. The detour extends the normal 350 kilometre trip to 480 km, and obviously misses all the coastal scenery.

Other regions will probably benefit, but the affected towns and area will struggle to survive as they were.

Blenheim mother of three

Stuff posted an article this morning on Blenheim mother-of-three struggling to survive since coming off the benefit.

There’s been a lot of comment and some corrections.

A low wage worker says there is no incentive to get off the benefit.

A number of people pointed out that wanting to earn a living and be self-sufficient is a good incentive to get off the benefit.

A struggling solo mum in Blenheim is only $34 better off a week since she came off the benefit and got a job.

The 48-year-old said Marlborough’s low wage economy meant it was harder for people to enter the workforce.

But this isn’t about being harder to enter the workforce, she asks…

“When you weigh it up, is it worth going to work?

If you weight it up on purely financial criteria then some more money with the prospects of quite a bit more is still worth it for many people.

The early childhood teacher, who worked 29 hours a week, earned $21.90 an hour, just more than the living wage set at $19.25.

There is no set living wage. The minimum wage is $14.75.

She received $580 a week when she was on benefits looking after her three dependent children aged 10, 15 and 17.

Her new job, which she also juggled with studying for a bachelor in early childhood education, paid $614 a week after her student fees were taken out.

And less if PAYE tax and ACC Earner Premium are taken out:

Gross pay: 635.10
PAYE: 92.30
ACC: 9.21
Student Loan: 32.17
Take home pay: 501.42

She missed qualifying for a working for family support benefit by one working hour.

But it’s been pointed out that that is incorrect. A comment at Stuff:

Based on the information supplied she qualifies for both the working for families tax credit weekly as well as the “In work tax credit”

– Copied and pasted from the IRD website = “In-work tax credit Paid to families with dependent children18 or younger who work the required hours each week”” “To get this payment, couples must work at least 30 hours a week between them, and single parents must work at least 20 hours a week.” – by working 29 hours she qualifies.

David Farrar works out how much that is at Kiwiblog:

According to the IRD calculator if she is working more than 20 hours a week she should receive $239 a week in family tax credits and $60 a week for in-work tax credits which is $299 a week on top of the $614 from her job.

No, I think it will be on top of her take home pay of 501.42, which comes to $800 per week.

“There is that stigma attached to being on the benefit and many believe that you are just a bludger,” she said.

If weighing up whether earning money is worth it then yes, that’s a risk.

“Children are my passion. I wanted to better myself and get a job in early childhood education.

“I was shocked I was only $34 better off a week. I thought I would be $100 better off. That’s huge when you are only earning $600 a week.

“We make do with what we have got. My children don’t go without. We don’t eat the flashest of foods but they get fresh fruit and vegetables.

“I am too proud to ask for help. It’s really hard to say I don’t have any money.”

Except that she has apparently volunteered her story to a journalist.

“We don’t have many treats. We are lucky if we have a takeaway every three months. It’s not part of our budget.

“It’s quite depressing, you just have to deal with it.

“The kids pick up on it. They are sick of being poor and having no money.”

Striving to work and earn money for yourself is something kids can pick up on too. If the seventeen year old is sick of being poor they could at least try to find holiday work. Many seventeen year olds earn money for themselves.

She would not give up her job to go back on the benefit.

“I love my job. It makes me feel rewarded.”

So why does she ask if it is worth it?

It’s hard to work out what the motive for this story is.

I hope she considers checking out her eligibility for family tax credits and in work tax credits.

And I hope the journalist who wrote this checks things out a bit better.