WELLINGTON Dec 15 New Zealand's government said
on Thursday it would spend around NZ$2 billion ($1.42 billion)
rebuilding road and railway links to the tourist resort of
Kaikoura, after the South Island's main transport artery was
wiped out in a deadly earthquake last month.
Tour operators and hotels in Kaikoura have said they are
struggling to survive as blocked roads keep would-be visitors
from using the town of 2,000 as a base for trips to watch
whales, dolphins and seals.
The government plans to pass rules to speed up road repair,
but it will still take 12 months to get limited access along the
coastal road, transport minister Simon Bridges said in an
He added that the government was committed to getting the
region "back on its feet".
Kaikoura is at the forefront of fallout from the Nov. 14
quake, which New Zealand's central bank has initially estimated
will cost the NZ$250 billion economy up to NZ$8 billion.
Alternative emergency routes have been set up to provide
residents access to and from the town.
The government also said on Thursday that it would provide
NZ$5 million to repair Kaikoura's harbour so fishing and whale
watching vessels could access the land more easily.
The seabed had risen up to 2 metres during the quake,
meaning tourist boats could only reach the shore for two hours a
day during high tide and fishing vessels were completely cut
The government has also been forced to slash its 2016/17
budget surplus estimate by more than a third to NZ$473 million
due to costs related to the quake.
($1 = 1.4053 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Joseph Radford)