PM says EQC levy increase may be needed

If increased levies are needed to replenish Earthquake Commission funds then the Government would consider it, Prime Minister John Key says.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand this morning he said it was too early to get advice on the issue but he was confident the country had enough money to deal with Tuesday's massive Christchurch quake, which has killed at least 103 people with 228 still unaccounted for. The concern was the future.

"The good news part of the story is that EQC had about $6 billion before that (quake), that's going to be exhausted, but we pay in on a continuous basis and we had significant re-insurance in the order of $5b, that will be exhausted."

There would also be funds from private insurers and government.

"We've got the financial capacity to deal with the earthquake there's no question about that, and that's why the rating agencies aren't downgrading New Zealand."

However the quake would have an impact on economic growth as lack of activity in Christchurch would flow into Government accounts.

More re-insurance would be needed and it would be more expensive. The EQC would need to be replenished and the Government would have to decide how quickly that would need to be done.

Treasury advice would be sought.

Mr Key said his preference was not to increase the levy.

"You do what you have to do. If that was what was required, if that was what was in the best interest of New Zealand, for us to feel confident we could meet any future claims against EQC I'd do it."

However it was far too early to get advice let alone make decisions.

"That's not our No 1 focus at the moment."

Treasury chief executive John Whitehead was to visit Christchurch today.

Mr Key said the city would be put back together but many buildings would need to be demolished.

He said the international support was vital but a "bit of luck" was needed to find people in rubble.

"The Australians have been absolutely remarkable, they've sent hundreds of police, they are establishing a field hospital in one of the parks in Christchurch and they've got the urban search and rescue people.

"We need that continued support and we need people to recognise that we will get through this, because I know this is a very dark time for New Zealand and a very difficult situation, but we've got to get confidence up because Christchurch in the end will be rebuilt and we will go on."

Mr Key said there were plenty of experts working on body identification but it was a slow process.

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