When disaster strikes you can’t always go by the rules.
In financing a fund to cover wages for Canterbury businesses in the aftermath of the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes in Canterbury, the government wasn’t following the rules:
In an interview on last February’s quake Prime Minister John Key said:
The Government’s response in the following days involved not just the rescue effort, but how to keep the heart of Christchurch beating. “In a way we almost broke every rule in the book.
“You’d never establish a fund where you just say, `Ring up and we’ll give you money’, because governments don’t operate like that and if you do, they’re liable to all sorts of activity which could be fraudulent.
“But we just sort-of knew there was no way to have a system with all the bells and whistles on it … if you look back on it I reckon that actually kept Christchurch afloat. We essentially paid the bill for 50,000 people for six or eight weeks and business did start regrouping, in fact, much quicker than we thought.”
A business leader told a meeting I was at last year that the fund made a huge difference to the city and he credited it with the relatively low number of business failures after the quakes.
The fund kept money flowing through the economy, it gave businesses breathing room while they regrouped, it worked on honour and there was very little abuse of it.