Kaikoura Earthquake - What you need to know

Hospitality New Zealand - We're here to help

We have uploaded this Kaikoura earthquake information on to our website to make sure you have 24/7 access and we will continue to upload relevant information to help you deal with specific business matters during this challenging time for members impacted by the 14 November earthquakes.

As always, we are here to help our members and one of our team of experts is available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 0800 500 503.

Kaikoura Earthquake Tourism Action Group

On behalf of Hospitality New Zealand members, Dylan Firth Advocacy Manager attends the Kaikoura Earthquake Tourism Action Group fortnightly meetings along with NZTA, Regional Tourism Organisations NZ, TIA, Holiday Parks Association, NZ Kaikoura District Council, Local Government NZ, Department of Conservation, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and other groups impacted by the Kaikoura Earthquake.

This group is specifically focused on tourism issues and ensuring the rebuild of roads and other infrastructure is done in collaboration with the Industry and looking at opportunities to direct tourists into the region. 

Funding has been pledged by the Government to promote the region domestically and wage subsidies continue. Plans have been put to NZTA working group to allow for tourists related upgrades on the road between Blenheim and Kaikoura.


Useful Links

Travel Information for Canterbury and Marlborough - NZ Transport Agency

Updates from the NZ Transport Agency on current travel conditions relating to the Canterbury and Marlborough regions can be found here.


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Safety First

You will not be able to open and trade if your building is unsafe. Check with your landlord about damages to your premises or if you are the landlord or owner of your building engage a structural engineer if you are in any doubt about the safety of your building. Building owners must meet legislative requirements to ensure the safety of people using their buildings.

WorkSafe NZ advise extreme caution when entering workplaces after earthquakes. Please be extra vigilant as there could be hazards that you would not expect when entering.

Click here to view the expert advice from WorkSafe NZ.


Member Resource

For employment and insurance information, please download member resource ‘Disaster and Weather Disruptions – Employment and Insurance Issues – Ref no. 2.56’. Use your membership number and password to access and download.


Employment Advice

My business has been closed. What do I have to pay staff until I can re-open?

This can be a little unclear. In general, wages are normally payable if employees are ready, willing and able to work.

However, in an earthquake situation, authorities may not allow employees to enter the work site as this will give rise to OSH and safety issues and employees may not therefore be able to work through no one’s fault. In addition the work site will need to be safe before staff or customers can re-enter. In this situation the employer’s liability is generally confined to payment for the hours the employees would have worked for the first day of the cessation. Thereafter the employer shall not be obliged to pay wages, but the employer can elect to pay out annual holidays to cover the remaining period of the closure.

Sick leave provisions will also apply for any employees sick or injured as a result of the emergency.

Where the work site isn’t required to be closed or you are satisfied that it’s safe to use and you elect not to open or have no work for staff then again if employees are ready, willing and able to work and if employment agreements provide for a fixed amount of work the employer will either need to pay the contracted hours or reschedule work. There may also be scope to claim any costs incurred from your insurance and you should talk to your insurer about this. If however the employee isn’t able to work then the employer isn’t obliged to cover this cost. For employment agreements that do not provide fixed hours then staff should be advised as soon as practicable if there is no work.

Employees and employers can also agree to alternative options including alternative duties, work at other unaffected sites, working from home, annual holidays or unpaid leave. Employees can also be required to take annual holidays although 14 days' notice should be given and this only applies to annual holidays that the employee is entitled to on each anniversary of the date they commenced employment. If your employee refuses to take annual holidays on less than 14 days' notice you cannot require them to.

If agreement cannot be reached on what to do then suggest to your employee that they seek help from Work and Income. Annual Holidays will probably need to be exhausted before this could be granted.

My building has been condemned and the business is finished how do I deal with my staff?

This situation makes it impossible for employment agreements to be performed by either party and the effect is that the employment and employment agreements terminate. However you need to advise staff as soon as practicable. Final pays and any accrued holiday pay will need to be paid just as it would be when employment ends.

If any of your staff are in hardship as a result then they should approach Work and Income.

Click here for more information.


General Employment Advice

Since the earthquake, we have received a number of queries regarding general employment advice. The following is a summary of your legal requirements:

It is a legal requirement that all employees are provided with a written Employment Agreement before they commence work. Employers are also required to give employees a reasonable opportunity to consider the employment agreement and to seek independent advice. Employers must also consider and respond to any issues raised by an employee about an intended agreement. The agreement should also be signed by both parties to have full legal effect.

Employees engaged for a short term or temporary nature may be either full or part-time and should be employed on a Fixed Term Individual Employment Agreement. This is where an employee is employed for a specified period of time or for a specified event. Employees must be advised how and when fixed term employment will end and this should be advised on a letter of offer and stated in the employment agreement. The reasons could for example include coverage for other employees or for employment that is only available for a short term or temporary nature.

Fixed Term employees are not entitled to sick or bereavement leave unless they are employed for six months or more, but they are entitled to holiday entitlements, including annual leave and entitlements for working on public holidays.

Holiday pay may be included in the hourly rate or salary and paid weekly if the period of employment is for less than 12 months, but this must be made clear in the employment agreement and be clear in your wage records. However, Hospitality New Zealand recommends that holiday pay not be included in hourly or weekly wages and be paid to an employee at the end of the employment. This is because the Holidays Act provides that where for any reason the employment continues beyond 12 months the employee becomes entitled to annual holidays despite any holiday pay paid with regular wages.

Hospitality New Zealand has a Fixed Term Individual Employment Agreement template intended for fixed term employees who are paid wages calculated on an hourly basis written from an industry employer’s perspective. The Fixed Term Employment Agreement is intended to be used in conjunction with a Letter of Offer. The Fixed Term Individual Employment Agreement template and fixed term letter of offer one can be obtained from the Hospitality New Zealand National Service Centre or by phoning your Regional Manager on 0800 500 503.

The Fixed Term Employment Agreement is not intended to be used for periods of employment of six months or more. For other positions, such as salaried, permanent full or part-time or casual employees contact your Regional Manager for alternative documents or to discuss your situation.


Accommodation Booking Advice

I had guests booked in but could not accommodate them do I need to provide a refund?

If as a result of the earthquake, you are unable to provide services for which guests have booked or paid for such as a room, room hire or paid a deposit on then yes they are entitled to a full refund less any actual expenses that you may have incurred prior to the event that broke the contract. The same applies to any guests who would’ve had an obligation to pay for services, they are released from their obligations to pay the balance.

I have received a number of booking cancellations following the 14 November earthquakes – what rights to do I have?

It is natural that some guests may cancel bookings as a result of the 14 November earthquakes. For some it will be through an unwillingness to put themselves at perceived risk, for others it may be due to wholesale cancellation of business trips, domestic or international travel, conferences etc.

While large numbers of cancellations can be concerning for your business, remember, guests may well be a customers in the future and at times like this, they cancel for reasons that are genuine and important to them.

If however you are still able to provide the services they have booked and/or paid for, or you can provide the services for the dates booked, then technically you are still able to fulfil your contract with them. If however they are intent on cancelling their booking you should refer to the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) of the booking to determine what the guest has agreed to contractually.

You may also consider negotiating something to suit both you and the guest, with the view that developing goodwill now may well pay off for you in the future (pay it forward, so to speak). You could consider limiting the cancellation fee to the reasonable costs associated with that booking. Also take into account the likelihood that losses could be replaced by re-booking another guest.

For accommodation providers, if these bookings have come via an Online Travel Agent (OTA), your will need to be aware of the T&Cs of the OTA. Making contact with the relevant OTA to assist you at this time is also recommended.

Deducting cancellation fees from credit cards:

Should your guest agree to the payment of a cancellation fee, or part thereof, advise the guest at the time of these negotiations that their credit card will be charged. We recommend this is done in writing and that they acknowledge and accept the condition in writing back to you. If you don't do this, it might be considered an unauthorised transaction which the credit card companies can reverse at the request of the card holder.

Ultimately, regardless of the your T&Cs or an OTA's T&Cs, Credit Card T&Cs tend to override all others. So make sure you have clear processes in place for documenting any cancellation fee discussions with guests as this may be helpful should you need to clarify anything with the credit card company at a later date.

With all the above in mind, it may just be that a guest does not have the full information as to what parts of the country have been affected by the earthquake.

The following is some simple messaging prepared by Tourism New Zealand that you could provide to guests who might enquire about travel to your region (if you region is unaffected by the earthquakes):

  • The region of New Zealand where the XXX (put your property name here) is located has not been impacted by the earthquake and we are open for business.
  • New Zealand remains a safe place to visit.
  • While this event has had a significant impact on some communities in north Canterbury, the rest of NZ is still open for business.
  • The main area affected is Kaikoura, a small community approximately 2 ½ hours drive north of Christchurch in the South Island. Kaikoura is currently inaccessible by road.
  • For Christchurch itself, the North Island and the rest of New Zealand, it is largely ‘business as usual’.
  • International gateway cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown are all open and welcoming visitors.
  • Regional airports are also operating meaning visitors can continue to fly between destinations.
  • The North Island of New Zealand is unaffected so anyone wishing to travel around the North Island can do so.
  • Visitors arriving into Christchurch can travel south to Dunedin, Central Otago, Southland and the Queenstown Lakes area without any change. Alternatively, visitors may wish to travel across from Christchurch to the West Coast and down to the Queenstown lakes region and Southland via Fiordland. Both routes are unaffected.
  • For visitors wishing to travel north from Christchurch alternative routes are available to Nelson and Picton.

The Tourism Industry Association has produced a directory of useful links to help people keep up to date with changes to transport routes - available here.

Earthquake Support Subsidy

Work and Income can provide financial assistance to businesses of less than 20 staff to help you pay employees while you work through the impact of the earthquakes.

The Earthquake Support Subsidy will be administered through the Ministry of Social Development, with support from the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise North Canterbury, and the Kaikoura and Hurunui District Councils.

Businesses located in the Kaikoura, Cheviot, Ward, Rotherham, Waiau and Mount Lynford areas can be eligible for the subsidy.

Click here to view information on the ‘Earthquake Support Subsidy’ or call the 0800 Government Helpline on 0800 779 997, from 7am – 9pm, seven days a week if you:

  • Would like assistance
  • Are struggling to support yourself, or your family
  • Would like more information about how Work and Income can help.

Temporary Accommodation

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) are working together to assist those people whose households were affected by the November earthquakes in finding temporary accommodation.

Temporary accommodation is not income or asset tested. There will be a cost for temporary accommodation, however assistance to cover this cost may be available through contact with MSD.

For information on temporary accommodation click here.

Is there anything else that I should do?

You should advise the following organisations (if applicable) of any disruptions to operations:
  • District Licensing Agency (alcohol licences)
  • Your Gaming Trust
  • TAB


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