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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Small Businesses in Christchurch

New Zealand is a country of small businesses, Christchurch a city made up of a very large number of small businesses.

Fighting to stay in business in a difficult financial environment, facing competition from big rivals who are more often predators than competitors, many of these small business have been in extreme difficulty from the day of the earthquake.

These difficulties are attributable to one or more reasons: damage to premises and/or stock, reduction in business due to access problems in the inner city (earthquake damage and the tram extension), reduction in business due to subdued demand, and cash flow problems because of increasingly slow debt repayment. In the last case, EQC seems to be a major threat to the city's cash flow. 

Despite publicly offering to assist them, government has done little in this regard. Now that we have moved from disaster to recovery, and a delayed and struggling recovery at that, there is less evidence of ground-based ministerial involvement. When was the last time John Key visited? What about Bill English - he is both Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for EQC - what is he doing? As for Gerry Brownlee, what of him? Apart from releasing statistics what is happening? In a press release of 23 December he said:
"It will be a long recovery process for Canterbury and the Government is committed to ensuring a sense of urgency continues throughout." (the press release can be found here)
Where, exactly, is that sense of urgency?

Everyone who is in a position to do something seems focused on delivering endless statistics about the magnitude of the problem, the number of bits of paper that have been processed, requesting and requiring research and reports, plus providing coordinators and mentors and other useless types of support. Few are delivering useful assistance, financial support, or bankable results.

The Canterbury Business Recovery Network have been trying to get this problem sorted. Their blog is worth keeping an eye on as they try to come to grips with a government, National, the party of business and commerce, that is not really helping. Ten million dollars had been promised, and delivered, by government but not much else. They can tell their story better; it is here.

In the meantime we should all go and support a small business. Buy things from the corner dairy, fish and chip shop or burger bar, or any business that isn't part of a large retail chain. Fletchers are trying their best to localise their spending, we can too.

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