Polar blast's impact on business minor - BusinessNZ

Businesses have escaped relatively unscathed from the blizzard conditions that have plagued the country over the past few days, BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly says.

“We're not seeing any significant disruption in production,” he said.

“The kinds of production outages we're hearing about are small and episodic, such as meetings missed or some production schedules hindered, like shifts not happening.

“It's more stone in the shoe stuff, a lot of minor niggles,” Mr O'Reilly said.

However, he acknowledged that the pick-up of milk from snow-bound areas was an issue for some farmers and Fonterra.

Businesses in the lower North Island and upper South Island, which were not as accustomed to snow as those in the lower south, might have found the past few days a bit tougher, Mr O'Reilly said.

The weather was not good for retailers, New Zealand Retailers' Association chief executive John Albertson said.

“If people are sitting at home they don’t go out and spend, do they?

“So the regular spend will still come through, because people obviously still have to buy the basics, and will do so later in the week, but the biggest issue is around the discretionary dollar,” Mr Albertson said.

People may put off some retail spending that they had planned to do due to the weather, he said.

Bad weather had also caused problems for product transport, Mr Albertson said.

“If you’ve got trucks sitting on the Desert Road for a couple of days, it doesn’t help. Unfortunately, in a sense, stock’s not being drawn off at the other end either.

“But there will be areas like Wellington city where the city itself is running at full capacity.”

As long as the weather cleared soon, shortages of stock should be kept to a minimum, he said.

“If it goes on for too much longer, there will be stock shortages, but my suspicion would be that if it’s two or three days, it’s probably not going to have a huge impact.”

Mr Albertson said it was not possible to put a cost on the weather for retailers.

“We’d be guessing. Some places like Queenstown almost shut down.

“While the suburbs of Wellington are fairly heavily blanketed in snow, the central city’s quite clear and operating. It’s going to be a very mixed bag.”

A KiwiRail spokesperson said the rail operator had not seen any significant changes or delays, and 70% of its business was freight.

“We’ve been able to keep everything moving,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve had to reschedule some services from overnight to during the day, because overnight it’s obviously a lot colder.

“But other than that we’ve managed to keep everything reasonably on schedule.”

KiwiRail had systems in place for extreme weather conditions, the spokesperson said, but it found that in general, rail performed better in those types of conditions.

The news from Air New Zealand was not quite so positive.

Air New Zealand marketing communications executive Neil Patton said over the past three days the airline had cancelled about 120 services because of the weather.

“Weather disrupts are not infrequent and airlines deal with these issues on a reasonably regular basis, albeit not usually involving the closure of several airports at once.”

He said at this stage the cost of the disruption had not been examined.

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