Mayor’s $1m funding plea to help West Coast businesses declined

The mayor of Greymouth is disappointed the government's declined assistance to local businesses after a slip shut a main arterial route into the town for 10 weeks.

Visitor numbers dropped and employers were lumped with higher petrol and freight expenses, while the slip blocked State Highway 7 in October and November.

After the civil defence minister advised the council to put an application in for assistance, Mayor Tania Gibson said the council consulted with locals and businesses to gauge the full economic impact of the slip.

She said she was "quite shocked" at how severely some businesses and residents had been affected, including some that were without insurance.

"Some of them were down over $100,000 a month in takings ... that's a lot for a small business to lose," she said.

Gibson applied for $1million in government money to help and was turned down, partly because of the slip being cleared four weeks faster than expected.

But she said businesses affected by the convention centre fire in Auckland were offered assistance.

"So you're just left wondering where to? We're withering away down here and watching everyone else get assistance in the country," she said.

Although the West Coast relies heavily on tourism, she said the slip had left people uncertain about exactly how viable that was.

It also came on the back of significant weather events further south in Westland, including the loss of the Waiho Bridge in heavy rain in March 2019.

"When people think Westland's closed, they think that the whole West Coast is closed so we're trying to get the message out that we were open for business right through all the other areas, so we can still get other people coming here."

While there were a lot of opportunities in the tourism sector, she said existing companies were getting a bit worried about the resilience of the West Coast's roading infrastructure.

"And we always wonder ... if that road was in Auckland or Queenstown could it have been opened quicker, if it was a main arterial route?"

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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