Information about business support for Whakatāne released

Published: 23 December 2019

More detail about the business support for affected businesses in the aftermath of the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption in Whakatāne has been released today by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

“This was a devastating tragedy and our thoughts are with the Whakatāne community and the whānau and friends of the people who were lost. We know the community is still grieving and people are also worried about how this is impacting businesses and jobs. As we head into the Christmas break, we want to provide certainty to impacted businesses,” MBIE Economic Development and Transitions General Manager Dean Ford says.

Last Monday, the Prime Minister announced a $5 million contingency fund for Whakatāne, and the Westland community affected by recent flooding. On Friday, $280,000 of this was committed to help fund a tourism marketing campaign for the West Coast.

“Ministers have now confirmed that support for Whakatāne will consist of a Business Support Grants Programme, and expanded business recovery coordination services to local affected businesses.

“In addition, MBIE and Tourism New Zealand will conduct an analysis to understand the ramifications of the Whakaari/White island eruption for the wider tourism industry.

“This initial package provides a short-term response to immediate community needs over the summer period. Further decisions will be needed to respond to the long term implications for the local economy.

“We are working with local partners in the community. The Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce will be the first contact point for affected businesses, while the Whakatāne District Council will administer the Programme,” Dean Ford says.

The programme will support viable businesses in Whakatāne significantly affected as a direct result of the tragedy. Support would be available through a streamlined approval process to meet specific business needs – such as funding of professional services or for employment of staff.

A three-member panel with representatives appointed by the Whakatāne District Council, Ministry of Social Development, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa will approve grants for the programme.

Manahautū (Chief Executive) Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, Leonie Simpson has welcomed the programme as a way to support families who have been affected by the tragedy on Whakaari/White Island and says this will offer some relief at a very challenging time.

“There was a lot of work carried out in a short space of time to put this case forward to the Government, and we acknowledge that their quick action will support our communities in the immediate term,” Leonie Simpson says.

Whakatāne District Council Chief Executive, Steph O’Sullivan echoes Leonie Simpson’s comments, adding that the road to economic recovery is not one that should be travelled alone.

“There are a number of organisations that are working together to provide and facilitate the assistance that is needed at this time including the Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce,”  Steph O’Sullivan says.

Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce Vice President, Warren Short says the assistance has been gratefully welcomed by the business community.

“This support programme is very much needed and we are pleased to be working with MBIE and others to facilitate this support for our affected businesses,” Warren Short says.

Eligibility criteria for the Business Support Grants Programme include that the business:

  • was viable and suffered a substantiated, significant income drop caused by the Whakaari/White Island eruption on 9 December 2019
  • is primarily based in the Whakatāne district
  • paid employees at least the minimum wage
  • provided a significant source of income to the business owner
  • had no other efficient options available, including insurance

Businesses will need to:

  • show how much they need and what they will spend it on. For example, businesses, may apply for a grant for a fixed cost, marketing, and operation costs (including wages and associated staff costs).
  • provide accounts from the last full financial year, year-to-date financials and details of any tax issues.

Businesses who wish to seek support should contact the Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce via its dedicated Whakaari/White Island Business Support Line on 0800 999 030.

MBIE media contacts

Phone: 027 442 2141