Post-Cabinet Press Conference

Uploaded by NZNats on 27.02.2011

Good afternoon. Today I'm announcing an initial support package for Christchurch following
last week's major earthquake. I'd like to make something clear before I begin. This
package is just the beginning of what will be a long haul to get our second-largest city
back on its feet. The Government is committed to doing everything we can to support the
recovery and rebuilding of Christchurch. The package I'm announcing today is designed to
get people through the next 6 weeks as the Government considers what measures will be
needed in the medium term. Cabinet had originally considered a 4-week package, but on reflection
today, given the scale and severity of the earthquake, we've decided to make it for 6
weeks so we can use the next 5 weeks to carefully develop policies for the next step.
Today's earthquake assistance package comes in two parts: an earthquake support subsidy
to help employers keep paying wages; and the earthquake job loss cover, which will support
employees whose employer believes their business is no longer viable. Firstly I'd like to deal
with the earthquake support subsidy. You will remember we implemented a programme with the
same name following the Canterbury earthquake in September last year. This time the criteria
for the subsidy are wider, reflecting the greater severity of last week's earthquake.
Last time the subsidy was just for small businesses. This time it might be easier to consider which
businesses are not eligible, rather than which ones are. In terms of the businesses that
are not eligible, they are multinationals or nationwide chains, those that have insurance
cover, and central and local government. Outside those, any business will be eligible, which
means there will be some large local employers. The earthquake support subsidy will provide
employers with a contribution to help them keep paying wages while they consider the
future of their businesses. Eligible employers will receive a payment of $500 per week per
full-time employee, and $300 per week for part-time employees. After tax, this is the
minimum amount that needs to be passed on to the employee, and it's our hope that where
companies are in a financial situation to do so they will maintain paying the full salaries
of their staff. The subsidy is designed to keep businesses connected with their staff
during the 6-week period after the earthquake. It's about keeping people in jobs and supporting
businesses as they look to recover and regroup. The second part of the package is the earthquake
job loss cover, which is a new programme. It's designed to provide support to workers
whose employer believes their business is no longer viable. There will also be cases
where employees cannot get hold of their employer and therefore do not know what their future
holds. The earthquake job loss cover is able to cover these circumstances. A full-time
worker eligible for the earthquake job loss cover will receive $400 in the hand per week
to help them transition to either finding another job or seeking other welfare assistance.
In the case of the part-time worker the payment would be $240 per week in the hand.
I'd like to encourage employers where possible to attempt to contact their employees to discuss
arrangements with them for the next few weeks. Keeping this employment relationship going
is hugely important. These payments made under the earthquake job cover are universal. They
are not means-tested, and they are available immediately. Like the earthquake support subsidy,
they apply to companies and people who operate in the Christchurch City Council boundaries.
I would note that there are some workplaces now operating in Christchurch, and I'd like
to encourage people where possible to go back to work if they can. Where their workplace
is safe and their family is safe, the biggest contribution people can make to the recovery
is by going back to work. I'd also like to encourage people who want
to access these two programmes I've announced today to phone Work and Income where possible
or to use the Internet if they can, rather than walk into the local office. I say this
because Work and Income is just one of many agencies that's been affected by the earthquake
and it is operating on reduced capacity in the area. However, extra resources from around
the country are being made available to help on Work and Income phone lines. So I'd like
to encourage people to call the number, which is 0800 779 997.
We have made this support package as simple and pragmatic as possible so that it can be
delivered quickly and reach the people who urgently need it. Because of the number of
people this package is likely to affect, and the speed with which we have put it together,
we have cut through much of the red tape that would normally be associated with this type
of policy. But I would caution people applying for the two programmes that we will be using
IRD data-matching as we go, and people's applications must be bona fide in nature. I want to say
to employers and employees who are in the position of feeling like they need help to
please call the number I have given. If you are worried that you may not meet the criteria
for these programmes, please make that call and discuss your situation. Exceptions will
be considered by Work and Income on a case by case basis, and it is my expectation that
we will err on the side of generosity when looking at these issues.
It is difficult to estimate the total cost of this package, because the number of affected
businesses is uncertain. Based on initial estimates for the 6-week period, on the best
information we have there are approximately 210,000 employees in the catchment area, for
which the package may apply to around about 20 percent of them. In that case there would
be around 42,000 people caught by the package, and we would be looking at a cost of around
$100 million to $120 million. It is worth contrasting that with the first earthquake
support subsidy from last year, which ended up having a total cost of $10.7 million. Obviously
the cost will rise if the package has a higher take-up rate, and the Government is prepared
to meet that cost. I am advised that already civil defence payments worth just over $3
million have been paid out for a variety of things, including food, clothing, bedding,
and accommodation. In terms of the broader impact of the earthquake
on both the Canterbury economy and the national economy, I would like to reaffirm our commitment
to provide whatever financial resources are necessary to rebuild Christchurch and the
Canterbury economy. The earthquake's effects will be felt for many years to come, but the
Government will provide the financial resources needed in both the short and longer term.
Supporting and rebuilding Christchurch are among the most important things the Government
will be doing this year and into the future. Treasury has provided us with a preliminary
estimate of the earthquake's cost in economic impact, and it suggests that the total cost
of the damage from the earthquake is likely to be in the order of $10 billion to $15 billionóor,
put another way, two to three times the $5 billion estimated cost of the first earthquake.
So at this stage the likely combined cost of the two earthquakes is in the order of
$20 billion, but you will appreciate we are at a very early stage of assessment.
Yesterday I launched the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal to reach out to people who want to
donate money to help Christchurch. We're going to use the full force of the Government's
networks to reach around the world and to make it easy for people to help. The appeal
is designed to sit alongside those already run by organisations such as the Red Cross
and the Salvation Army. We'll be working with these types of agencies to ensure that the
money raised is used in the best way it can be. New Zealanders and people in other countries
can make a donation by going to In New Zealand people can also donate by going
into a branch of Westpac. People can go into any branch of another retail bank and make
a deposit, provided they have the appeal bank account number, which is on the website. Telecom,
Vodafone New Zealand, and 2degrees Mobile customers can text chch to 933 to make an
automatic $3 donation. Finally, I'll be travelling to Christchurch
again tomorrow, where I'll observe 2 minutes' silence at 12.51, along with the rest of the
country. I'll be joined at that time by wife, Bronagh, who, as you know, was born and grew
up in Christchurch. This is a time when the country will want to come together and pay
our respects to those families who have lost loved ones, and who are suffering as a result
of the earthquake. So in that context it will be particularly important for me, too, to
be with my family as well. These 2 minutes of silence are a sign of unity for the people
of Canterbury and a chance for all New Zealanders to show that we grieve alongside them.
Questions? Are you envisaging that this assistance will
have to go well beyond the 6-week period that you've set it up for?
Yes, it's our expectation that the nature of any future support is likely to change,
but we can't rule out that this package or a form of this package will be extended into
the future. We know that there are some businesses in the CBD area that will be off limits for
a period of time likely to be longer than 6 weeks, or some individuals that simply won't
be able to find work. But the idea of this is to put money immediately into people's
pockets, give them some confidence, and also give us a chance to frame up the policies
that we think are important as we go to the next stage of helping the recovery effort
in Christchurch. So it's not as though after that 6-week period
someone would have to be on a welfare benefit? No. The difference here with this package,
the way to think about this is, this is a non - means-tested, universal payment to anybody
whose company has essentially failed. The only companies that are outside this are multinationals,
where we believe they have got the financial wherewithal to look after their own staff;
companies that are nationwide in nature; or, frankly, Government departments or sort of
quasi - Government departments. And even in the case of a nationwide chain, if they were,
for instance, an owner-operated franchise, then we will almost certainly entertain making
payments there, as well. So it is a very universal scheme.
Did Cabinet discuss earthquake levies? We did not discuss those today, no.
Do you think it's likelyóI know you've been asked a number of times, but do you think
it's likely that we're going to have to employ a levy like that?
I think it is almost guaranteed that the EQC levy will go up, and the early indications
are double to triple the existing levy is likely to be the sort of order of magnitude
that will allow us to restore a healthier balance to the EQC fund. I think it is less
likely that we will put on another levy on top of that. But if you look at the initial
estimates from Treasury, they are saying around about $20 billion worth of costs in these
earthquakes. I think we have got around about $15 billion that we have provisioned. Now
that does not mean there is not going to be an impact on the Crown accounts; there absolutely
will be, and you will see that now show up in the May Budget accounts. That comes from
a variety of different factors, but I am reluctant to put another levy on unless I have to, because
I think it will slow the economy down. Does that mean that the Crown is left with
the $5 billion remainder of that money? Correct. That is likely to be the case. It
will vary. It could be paid out over a considerable period of timeóyou appreciate that the rebuilding
will take quite some time. What will knock our accounts around in May is a number of
factors. One, tax revenue will be lower. It could be considerably lower in the May accounts
because of the reduced economic activity in Christchurch. Secondly, this package alone
is in the magnitude ofóbest estimateó$120 million. There will be other packages, so
it will be hundreds of millions of dollars that will be unanticipated costs. The other
thing is, as we go about supporting infrastructural rebuild in Christchurch, normally it is sort
of a 50:50 joint venture with the local ratepayer; we cannot expect local ratepayers to meet
that bill in Christchurch. Would you consider applying the levy through
a different way? At the moment it's just private insurersópeople with private insurance who
pay it. Would you look at broadening it out, for example, through a rate-based system?
Yeah, we have not at this stage. Ultimately the economics of this would tell you eventually
it feeds into rents and the likes. We have not considered that and I do not think it
is likely, but in due course we can always consider those factors. I mean, we will need
to consider the wider issues about EQC and its rules and regulationsóhow it works and
whether its cover is wide enoughóbut that is time for a wider review.
Could you also consider other things mentioned perhaps by the Tax Working Group last year
as a way of getting more revenue, such as a capital gains taxódoes that bring that
back into the open? No, I do not think that is on the cards as
a result of this. What's the Government considering about long-term
incentives to keep businesses in Christchurch? The CBD is going to be out of action for a
long time and people may choose not to do business thereóis the Government considering
incentives to get people to go down there and maintain business?
Yeah, again that is the sort of thinking that will need to go into phase two, if you like.
The initial phase that we are announcing today is aimed at trying to shore up the relationship
between employers and employees, where they think there is a reasonable chance a business
can carry on. That has clearly been interrupted as a result of the earthquake; and then, secondly,
where there is no chance of the business relationship being maintained, the employee getting a payment
straight away. But we need to move to the next phase, which is how you generate economic
activity, and that is what we will work on over the next 5 weeks.
There have been some reports in Japanese media about concerns that the authorities might
have had about the language school in the CTV building. Was there any contact to the
New Zealand Government or to the council, as far as you're aware, about that?
Look, not as far as I am aware. The buildingóand I do not have the details of thatówill have
been checked by the Christchurch City Council or an engineering firm contracted by the Christchurch
City Council. So EQC, after the September 4th quake, was responsible for houses; the
council was responsible for buildings. Look, in due course we will need to consider what
sort of investigation is appropriate, or inquiry is appropriate, as a result of the earthquake.
I have asked for advice on that, but I have not seen any advice back yet.
So you haven't had any information that people have gone back into buildings, for example,
that haven't been deemed safe? No, I do not have any advice on that.
Has the Government given any consideration to a special earthquake bond to help cover
the shortfall? Again, I haven't had any advice on that. Treasury
is now going away looking at all of the levers they have available to them, what they think
the likely cost is, firming things up in terms of what our options are, but it's very early
days. The Minister of Finance hasn't been presented any information on that as far as
I'm aware. What impact does this have on a couple of
other policy areas the Government was looking atóState sector reform being one of them?
Can you go ahead with those reforms given the commitments that are going to be needed
in Christchurch? In my view, yes. The areas that we're working
on, welfare reform and State sector reform, were medium to long-term issues about driving
greater efficiency and better outcomes. They are as relevant today as they were back then.
But obviously Ministers are extremely focused on what's happening in Christchurch. So some
of that work has been delayed as well as meetings we would have held. But, in principle, we
believe the same long-term issues present themselves and we need to address those.
How about in the area of savings and investment in the Budget, is that still going to be the
main theme? You ask a good question there. Savings and
investment are very important, and I have no doubt that will be a core part of the Budget.
But I think you've got to expect also the rebuild of Christchurch now taking an important
part of the Budget's focus. The way I would describe it is building for the future. So
it's building our savings pool but also rebuilding Christchurch.
Does that give you less room to play with on the savings and investment side if you're
having toó? It may or may not. We can't answer that today
because we don't know. What it is likely to do is have an impact on when we return to
surpluses and what spare capacity we haveówe didn't think we had a lot of spare capacity
before we started this process. There is no getting away from the fact that this is an
enormous impact beyond our control or expectation. So that is going to have some impact on our
Crown accounts, but we'll have to get some advice on that.
Could you fill us in on what Cabinet discussed today in terms of some of those issues you
outlined in the paper this morningóthe CBD, a possible alternative, the extra housing;
possibly some new subdivisions? So, again, very general discussion thereónothing
specific at this point. The Minsters of Building and Housing are working on alternatives to
try to accommodate people. We think there are a substantial number of homes that are
going to be destroyed and demolished as a result of the earthquake. So we need to look
at those alternatives and they're working on that. Formalised proposals weren't brought
to Cabinet; there was a general discussion about that.
In terms of the CBD, that's very early days. Essentially, Mr Brownlee just gave us an overview
of what's going to happen next, and as we work through the rescue, and ultimately the
recovery phase then we will have to, I think, deal fairly quickly with the demolition of
those buildings that are condemned. From there, there are a wide range of issues. You'd appreciate
that ultimately the rebuilding is a very complex issue. A lot of questions will need to be
answeredósome of those by central Government and some ultimately by the people of Christchurch.
Does that include moving the CBD? We haven't had any discussions on that, and
I would have thought that's frankly fairly unlikely, but I'm not the expert on the matter.
What's going to happen around reviews of building laws, particularly around earthquake strengthening?
Does the Government have any intention of looking at that issue?
Eventually those questions about whether we believe the current Building Code in New Zealand
is adequate will need to be answered. I would expect in any form of inquiry that question
would be posed. That said, buildings we can just observe anyway with our naked eye that
have been built in recent times seem to have held up well in the earthquake. Clearly these
buildings which are causing tremendous concerns and are likely to have caused significant
loss of life were built either in the 1960s or 1970s. So I wouldn't want to prejudge the
outcome of that. We need to answer that question. But it certainly appears those modern buildings
have held up well. You mentioned you wanted to spend time with
your family tomorrow. Does that include your sister, and how is she holding up in all this?
Yes, I've spoken to her on a number of occasions, and I'm not quite sure where she'll be tomorrowóI
might give her a call. But because I'll be in the cordon I'm likely to be at the CTV
building. It's very difficult for her to come into the cordon. For her it's been quite tough,
because in the first earthquake she had some damage to her home. In the second earthquake,
it's highly likely her property will need to be demolished, and she's lost a couple
of friends that she's aware of. So it's a very difficult time for her. But that's going
to be true, sadly, for an enormous number of people in Christchurch.
You cancelled one of your European trips. What sort of consideration have you given
to your attendance at the royal wedding? I was due, although we hadn't officially announced
it, to go to Moscow next week to try to advance the FTA and then to pay a visit on the Queen
at Buckingham Palace, and go to see David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, and then over
to Brussels. That trip has been cancelled. At this point we've accepted the invitation
to go to the royal wedding and if possible I'd like to attend, but that's always subject
to domestic pressures. You've been talking about the May Budgetóno
discussion about pushing that out at all? No. In fact, if anything, it's probably more
important that the focus is on that. You talked about perhaps getting a surplus
a bit later. Do you have an idea of when that would be?
I haven't seen the Treasury advice that the Finance Minister has received, but I don't
think he's had up-to-date information on that. They're modelling it. One of the problems,
of course, is that it's still very early days for them to get an exact picture of how this
will impact on things. But I know they are modelling it very carefully.
What updates did you get on the resumption of basic services in Christchurch? I'm thinking
of power and water and sewerage. We've had some very vague indications of weeks, but
is there anything more concrete you can tell those people, particularly those who've left
town and are waiting to go back? Yes. I think in the case of power the situation
is looking very optimistic. It's on to, I think, about 75 or 80 percent of homes, but
likely to be around about 90-odd percent in the very foreseeable future. Orion have been
working hard at the new cables they've rolled out. Water is coming backóI think two-thirds
of the city now has wateróand, again, we're working on that aggressively. Sewerage is
still our main issue, but there's a lot of either Portaloos or chemical toilets and things
coming in from overseas. So I think we're making actually very good progress, given
the severity of the situation. But that's obviously our main priority, and without that
we just can't get kids back to school and things.
What's your advice about liquefaction in terms ofóhow does that pan out later on? If the
streets are still filled with water and sewage, how do you deal with that?
I'm not the expert on it, but it seems to me just from what I can see that liquefaction
causes, obviously, the sand to rise and it dries hard on the surface. So you need to
remove that silt. We think there's about five times as much as there was in the first earthquake,
so it's a large amount that needs to be removed. What impact that has on some of the very badly
affected areas in the first earthquake that have now been very badly affected again, like
Bexley, I'm not sure, but we're having to get some geotechnical advice there.
So they may well have to look at the future of those suburbs, especially after the second
time? One of the things that was likely to emerge
from the first earthquake, if there hadn't been a second earthquake, is that more houses
would have been demolished than people may have thought, not because the house itself
was damaged beyond repair, but the land that was adjoining that needed to be strengthened
and stabilised. We've now got a situation where liquefaction areas are much greater
as a result of this earthquakeómuch, much greateróand so we just need to work our way
through those issues and check the responses that we think are appropriate. At this stage,
we just haven't had advice on that. How many people have bailed out of Christchurch
in your estimate? Tens of thousands. We know Air New Zealand
moved, I think, by Friday 14,500 people just on its flights. We've been ìair-vaccingî
people, and an enormous number of people would have driven out of the city. I honestly don't
know; your guess would be as good as mine. But it would be 30,000, 40,000, or 50,000óthat
sort of number. And given how many houses presumably are now
sitting empty, and some of them won't be secured, are you confident that there is enough police
presence and other security arrangements in place?
Yes. There's a very large police presence. I mean, we haveóI can probably tell you exactly
if I look for 2 seconds. We have over 320 police officers from Australia alone; I think
there's about 900 locally. I can get the exact number for youóthere's a large number. But
the answer is that we are concerned where there have been relatively isolated cases
of looting and people taking advantage of the situation. Quite frankly, it's disgraceful
behaviour when people engage in that, and they should be dealt with very harshly by
the authorities if people engage in preying on people when they are most vulnerable. But
for the most part, there's so many police in the CBD area that at least we know that
part of the city is secured. Have you given any thought to maybe organising
a register that people can report that their houses are empty, and they can get some special
attention from the police? Because some streets seem to be empty, almost.
That's because certain streets have been evacuatedófor instance, in Redcliffs I think they've had
a lot of homes where people have just been forced to move out. I will go and check exactly
what extra precautions the police are taking. You will appreciate a lot of what they are
doing at the moment is really trying to focus very clearly on their big effort to try and
work through the rescue and recovery, but personal property is obviously very important
to people. Do you have any idea of the foreign national
tally? I don't know the number of that, I'm sorry.
The best I have is 148 confirmed fatalities, and we are working our way through the missing
list. We have been having discussions with the police about that, but it is in their
hands. Were you suggesting there might be an inquiry
into how the CTV and PGC buildings got a warrant of fitness when they were clearly structurally
damaged? All I can say at this stage is we need to
getófirstly, this is an event that has claimed the loss of many, many people, so we need
to provide some answers to that, both within those buildings, where there has been large
loss of life, and the wider issues around the adequacy of the building code. So I have
asked for advice on what is the appropriate forum for that inquiry and how it might work.
I haven't received that advice back yet, but I expect to be in a position to at least understand
that and comprehend that advice and consider that advice in the middle to latter part of
the week. If both those buildings got a warrant of fitness
after the last quake, how can anyone have confidence in the tick-offs that will come
for the high-rise buildings in the next month of two?
You ask a fair question. The answer is we will want to get some immediate information
on those buildings, and I think the Department of Building and Housing have been undertaking
some immediate work there, but that doesn't necessarily mean that would satisfy the full
extent of any inquiry that I might want to commission.
So are you saying there will be an inquiry, but you just don't know what form it will
take? Yes, there will be an inquiry. There has to
be an inquiry. We have to provide answers to people about why so many people lost their
lives, and we have to learn lessons from the earthquake. Now, some things may be just beyond
our control; this is an act of nature, and it has had a devastating effect. But we owe
it to those people to give them answers of what went wrong, and we will do that in due
course. Could there be some questions of fairness
about Government employees retaining their full salaries and other workers perhaps not?
The reality is if you work for the Government, more often than not, there is job security
because you know your employer is always going to pay, for instance. It's not the security
you get in the private sector. Often there is a trade-off in terms of income and other
opportunities, so there is always a trade-off. What you can say is that I think we are trying
to be as fair as we can with this package. If you contrast this to, let's say, someone
who has lost their job, they will get $400 a week in the hand. That is more than the
unemployment benefit, by some margin. The unemployment benefit is means-tested. There
is no stand-down period. I think we are doing the best we can in difficult circumstances
to provide a universal payment to a large subset of people from the Christchurch area.
Do you have any estimates of how many people you need to re-house?
Someone vaguely said to me there were about 3,300 houses that were likely to be demolished
as a result of the first earthquake, and on the back of the envelope, it was double that
for this one. But no one has an exact number yet.
Is it realistic to think that more survivors are likely to be found at this stage, Prime
Minister? As every day goes by, it is more challenging
but we can't give up hope. Miracles do happen. The advice I have from the medical staff on
the ground at the urban search and rescue teams is that it is possible for someone to
last 7 to 9 days. Internationally, we have seen miracles, where people last a lot longer.
It depends on the circumstances, but in general I think they have grave concerns beyond 7
to 9 days. Are you satisfied that the police are acting
speedily enough in releasing bodies, and also is there any reason why they can't release
the names of the missing? In terms of the latter issue, the names of
the missing, we have been having some discussions with them today, and we are trying to seek
a resolution to that issue as quickly as we can. There are privacy issues, but we need
to try to cut through those if we possibly can. In terms of the first issue, again we
have been in discussions with police to make sure they are satisfied they have all of the
personnel required to help them through this process, which is very challenging for them.
We have had a lot of offers of international support, and we have made it quite clear we
are happy to accept those offers of international support. Again, it's a difficult situation,
because of the nature of the earthquake and the terrible impact it's had on the victims.
Have you seen the situation where sometimes the immediate family know that this person's
died, and they've told the media, and they've discussed it with people, and yet the name
can't be released? How did you get into that situation? Is that acceptable?
Well, it sounds a bit farcical, but I accept that that's happening. That's one of the reasons
I've raised it on a couple of occasions, including this morning.
Are they just being too cautious? I don't want to criticise them. They're doing
their very, very best. There's a combination of different agencies here; it's not just
solely the police, actually, in their defence. But we're trying to cut through that issue
as fast as we possibly can. How can the police and officials get help
from the public in locating missing people if the names of those missing people aren't
out there for that help to come in? Effectively, if you think about how that missing
list has been put together, it's a combination of people ringing in to say: ìMy loved one
went off to work or went out to do some activity during the day, and hasn't returned.î So
it's driven by a family member ringing through, or a friend ringing through. The second way
is that in the case of the international students we have a fairly clear idea of the number
of people that were attending those classes. It's not absolutely perfect, but we're pretty
sure we know who was there. So that's how we've put together the list. I think if you've
been missing for a period of time, effectively, unless you live alone, it's highly likely
that someone has been in contact with the police. Even if you do live alone I'm sure
a neighbour or someone would have rung in. So we effectively are using the public. But
the question is whether there's a wider public interest in the names of the missing, and
I think the answer is that there is. So we need to try and get that list in the public
domain. Are you satisfied that Civil Defence's response,
in the suburbs in particular, was swift enough and thorough enough? Because we've been getting
anecdotal criticism from people saying: ìNo Portaloos in our street.î You saw that on
the television the other night: ìWe've seen no officials in our street, beyond a few students
digging up some liquefaction.î So, my view is, yes, in the sense that the
enormity of the situation means that they've had to prioritise. Because of the devastation
on a number of buildings and quite a wide number of sites in the CBD, obviously the
urban search and rescue people have focussed in that area. There's no question there's
substantial damage to those properties in the suburbs, and some people have lost their
lives. But that's been an easier position to identify. We do ask those people for patience.
We appreciate the stress that they're going through, and we are doing everything we can.
But this is something which is stretching our resources to breaking point.
This may have been asked: what ifófor the job-loss coverówhat if they've left Christchurch?
So if they've left Christchurch, they're still eligible. So you imagine a scenario where
you worked for a small business. The small business is no longer going to be in operationóyou'll
be eligible. Obviously if your businesses can't operate because, you know, it's your
intention to restart at some point but, again, they can't operate in the CBD, again, you'd
be eligible. It's been discovered that Statistics New Zealand
had quite a substantial operating base in the CBD. What other Government departments
have been affected in similar ways? ACC, I think, has been pretty substantially
affected. IRD is caught within the cordon. I think Education has a number of offices
there. Work and Income have lost a number of offices but they're increasing their numbers
again. So there's been quite a number of Government departments that are affected.
How much support have you had to the international fund so far financially, and what sort of
things are you doing to publicise it overseas? It's very early days, because there's a lot
of money that's going to come into the fund that actually, sort of, effectively hasn't
hit the bank account yet. I know one organisationóI'll leave it to them, but they did a fundraiser
on Friday night. They raised a million and a half dollars. I was at a function last night
which was meant to be actually a Chinese celebration for New Year, but they turned it into a fundraiser,
and raised $200,000. So there's lots of money there. In terms of the worldwide promotion,
we're doing a number of things. Tomorrow I'm going to spend effectively the first 3 hours
with the international media, trying to promote the fund on all the Australian talk shows,
breakfast shows, radio showsóall of that sort of thingóand ultimately to the United
States. We're talking to a couple of the global consulting and accounting firms to see whether
we can tap into their global database. We've got some ideas around some very, very high
net-worth individuals who might have a reason to want to support New Zealand. Obviously,
we're trying to work with the phone companies to see whether text messaging can be made
available in the other countries like Australia and the US and the UK. We're going to reach
out to the expat network that New Zealand has. A million Kiwis live overseas. Look,
in the end our ambition and our goal is to raise a large amount of money, and I think
that's actually quite possible. Have you firmed up with Oprah, whether you're
going to be able to get a spot with her? No, all of those things are happening, they're
trying to work on that and we're hopeful that they'll support us.
So you have been asked by Oprah? No, our people have been in discussions with
her producers. Where that goes I don't know, but look if we can get them even justóI don't
even need to go on the show, but if we can get them to promote that, that is likely to
have a very big impact. But put it in perspective, roughly, this is a sort of $15 billion cost.
This is about 7 or 8 percent of GDP. Hurricane Katrina was 1 percent. So this is somewhere
in the order of 5 to 8 times more significant to the New Zealand economy, in a financial
impact, than arguably Hurricane Katrina. It's considerably bigger than the Victorian bushfires
in terms of financial impact. Now obviously an enormous number of people lost their lives
in those events, we're not trying to diminish that in anyway, but for New Zealand, a small
country, that's quite a big impact. The global appeal though surely is for the
people of Christchurch rather than the Government coffers?
Absolutely, totally for the families. So the money is to be used for hardship for the families
and businesses as they rebuild, services we think can support the people of Christchurch,
and we'll need to consider but one idea is possibly whether it's used in any form for
an iconic building or something, potentially the rebuild of Christchurch Cathedral, if
that was required, depending on what their insurance provisions and things are.
Do you have a goal amount you would like to see?
It's hard to know. Australia raised $390 million for the Victorian bushfires, approximately,
$392 million I think to be precise. They have a wider audience, there's 20-odd million people.
But there's quite big numbers, you know, if we can get 10 percent of Australians to give$2
millionó$100 each would be AUD$200 million, that's a lot of money. There's a lot of Australians,
the Anzac spirit is alive and well, they believe in New Zealand, and I think they can see the
devastation that's taken place. So we'll do our best and see how it goes. In terms of
Lotto on Saturday night, you're aware that half of all the ticket proceeds are going
to the fund. Again we don't know how much that will bring in, but we're actually encouraging
people to buy Lotto tickets. We're not encouraging them to gamble, per se, but we're encouraging
them to buy Lotto tickets. Who knows, any kind of any number is possible but it's not
impossible that sort of, $10 million to $15 million goes into the fund, maybe more.
You've said that this will be the first of some packages, what's the next step the Government's
going to take in terms of looking at assistance? You've got past the initial employers, employees,
what's the next issue? Ultimately providing an operating environment
for businesses to get back on their feet, both temporarily and for the longer term.
So that's where the focus has got to be. In the end, this is an income support package
for businesses to pay their employees and for individuals who have lost their jobs.
But in the end, a vibrant city provides jobs for their people. This is a broken city but
one that we need to repair. We need people to be able to go back to work and that's going
to take some time, but we need to work on that. Thanks very much.