Plan for access to buildings inside cordon

Hundreds of businesses are seeking access to their premises in locked-down central Christchurch.

About 900 calls streamed in yesterday to the Canterbury Business Recovery Group, a joint venture formed this week between the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and the Canterbury Development Corporation.

Businesses have to register with the group to get to premises in safe areas of the four avenues cordon to retrieve computers and other equipment they need to operate elsewhere.

An announcement is expected today on a plan worked out with Civil Defence officials to allow controlled access for business owners, inner-city residents and owners of cars left inside the cordon.

Christchurch lawyer Grant Cameron, who has highlighted the access problem, said his 16 staff abseiled from the sixth to the third floor of the Forsyth Barr building on the Colombo St-Armagh St corner after the magnitude-6.3 earthquake.

He expected the number of businesses registering for re-entry to double today. Cameron said he was holding off registering because rescue teams were still working in the Forsyth Barr building.

Staff had saved computer equipment and got it down to their cars on level one, but they could not get the cars out.

Cameron said the firm had found premises in Moorhouse Ave and was setting up new IT equipment sent from Auckland. It had been supported by other legal practices.