Tales of corporate resilence from quake city

It's a case of all hands to the pumps for firms in Christchurch.

The story of Pharmazen in Christchurch reveals the lengths that businesses have gone to get up and running.

The factory in Port Hills Road will need some work but is intact and safe. In the immediate aftermath of the February 22 earthquake the plant continued to receive some water to maintain cooling towers and freezers so staff got stuck into a major clean up. But when the water was cut off completely on Saturday night the plant manager put a couple of 1000 litre tanks on a trailer and went out to a mate’s place in Ohoka to fill up. This worked for several days in the first week.

Over last weekend managers worked overtime phoning around to come up with an action plan. By lunchtime Monday of this week they had a 15,000kg flat deck truck, three 5000 litre tanks, tie downs, and plumbing fixtures. Another business came to help with the water supply. By that stage other water was being delivered so the factory was able to complete the clean up and get back into production.

“We have had product delivered, shipped out product, had laundry collected and delivered, waste removed and have been totally overwhelmed by the community spirit that is out there – when we were doing the ringing around if someone couldn’t help they would always take the time to suggest who might – even if it was someone they would typically be in fierce competition with,” chief executive Craig McIntosh said.

“We could have stayed at home for another week but there is more to it than the financial aspect. It doesn’t matter if we aren’t at full production. The fact that we can get people working and put product out the door has given everyone a purpose and sense of achievement. Those that have no power or water at home come in and use the amenities here so that is a plus.

“We have had a couple of calls from outside of the city wanting to know if they can help with supplying product – I call them vultures and it is great to be able to say ‘no thanks’.”

“It is hard but there are masses of people out there who will help. Orion were brilliant. They were genuinely concerned and followed up. We actually got a call from their guy on Saturday who was parked out front and could hear motors running wanting to check we were all good.

“We are actually in the middle of extending the factory and despite the earthquake expect that construction to resume later in the week. The company has further plans for developing the site that went out for tender at the time of the quake.

“We are in the process of finalising last year’s accounts and audit but expect to announce a significantly improved result in coming weeks,” Mr McIntosh said.

Meanwhile, many companies have sent emails to clients and contacts to say they are back in action.

Public relations practitioner John Durning has been preparing a number of such statements for clients.

“The cordon remains in place which precludes us from entering our premises, but it would appear that the building’s structural integrity remains sound – the proverbial brick outhouse, but very comforting.

There has been some cosmetic damage, mainly centred on filing cabinets and overturned shelves. My two prized gnomes came off second best but there’s a half full cup of tea sitting on the window sill totally unmoved.

We are back on deck, albeit remotely. Already we have noticed a new trend. With office hubs being set up in the suburbs, several clients are keen for us to come and work inside these hubs. This is not a problem,” Mr Durning said.

Others PR people such Shelley Grell are also back in action, although the fate of Carter Price Rennie is unclear after offices were evacuated.

Anderson Lloyd is typical of many central city businesses. Whilst the cordon remains in place preventing the legal firm from entering its offices in Clarendon Tower, it has full access to electronic files and is experiencing little disruption in providing advice.

“Our offices in Dunedin and Queenstown have swung into action and we have more than 50 lawyers located elsewhere in the South Island working to support our lawyers in Christchurch a number of whom are working remotely.

“We have secured new premises at Birmingham Drive in Addington and we are currently in the process of arranging the necessary fit out. In the meantime, thanks to support from our colleagues at Foodstuffs we have an office in their Trents building at 171 Main North Road where a number of our partners will be located from Monday 7 March. We expect to be located there for four to six weeks.

“We are all adapting to a new way of working but the critical thing for us is that we continue to provide the excellent level of service that you have come to expect, Anderson Lloyd says.