Stephen Franks takes on the folks standing between central city businessmen and their businesses' continued survival:
On the last day of February, during a trip to Christchurch, I raised with a Minister the plight of a friend who needed his computer server to get his business back on its feet. He was with a Christchurch business leader. The friend had new premises sorted. The 14 staff were ready. The government was saying it was going to subsidise wages, but they did not need that to forestall redundancy – they needed to know when they could restart work.I can understand the government wanting to block folks from putting themselves in a situation where they might easily need to be rescued. But where they've arranged all the safety experts themselves?
The server was in his car, shut behind a carpark gate within the cordon area.
Both men were utterly frustrated, having been bounced back and forth between Civil Defence and the Police. They'd offered to put together and pay a specialist team, including engineers and safety experts to go to premises where critical records could be retrieved. They would distract no rescue worker or other official.
No one could give them a decision or even tell them who would make such a decision.
The Minister undertook to enquire, and called back promptly, I was told I could reassure the business people that a plan would be announced that Monday evening that would cover organised access.
Yesterday the friend dropped in to our office in Wellington. He is still not operating. 10 days later his car is still where it was, ready to drive out from the carpark. He has not been allowed to take his own experts in to retrieve the material. You can read about his efforts here and here and here.
Ministers spend what will be hundreds of millions in grants to help employers keep their employees in Christchurch, yet do not have the courage or the drive to insist that ordinary people get access to their own property and capacity to operate. All are terrified of being held "accountable" should anyone permitted to do so make the wrong personal decision to take a risk in order to get their business going.
If they just snuck through the cordon and grabbed the servers, they'd get off with a night in the cells and a warning, right? That's what happened to a woman who breached the cordon and went into a condemned building to get her wedding dress. Surely as much leniency would be given to keeping a business from bankruptcy as would be given to someone wanting to make sure her wedding day was just right.
"We got past the cordon. We managed to get all the important dresses down from the balcony, but once we were in the shop the cops [turned up]," said Mrs Phan, who is from Vietnam.All the law firm needs is a policeman sympathetic to their cause.
"We got arrested on Peterborough St. We got the whole thing. Handcuffs, the lot."
She and her husband spent a few hours in the police cells before being freed with a warning. Undeterred, Mrs Phan went in again about midday yesterday – this time escorted by a policeman sympathetic to her cause.