Restaurant Association of New Zealand

Emergency Information 2017 – Port Hills fires

16 th February, 2017

The advice here is designed to help our members make good, safe, sensible and practical decisions in the event of an emergency situation such as an the fires currently affecting Canterbury. Please contact the Restaurant Association on 0800 737 827 at any time if you have concerns or questions.

A state of local emergency has been declared for Christchurch City and Selwyn District in relation to the Port Hill fires. We recommend that for the latest updates check the Christchurch Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ChristchurchCDEM.

Here is a link to emergency contacts in the area: http://www.civildefence.govt.nz/find-your-civil-defence-group/region/canterbury. If life or property is threatened always dial 111 for Police, Fire or Ambulance.

To find out more about road closures go to: http://www.tfc.govt.nz/current-conditions/latest-traffic-updates/ .


Canterbury District Health Board's Community and Public Health Division have issued a health warning to residents over the smoke coming from the Port Hills fires.

Health officials are warning residents to close windows and doors. For the vast majority of people, the smoke will be unpleasant, but carries no risk to their health. However, smoke may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and airways. More serious symptoms include runny or sore eyes, dry or sore throat, sore nose, cough, tightness of the chest or difficulty breathing.

In healthy people, most symptoms disappear soon after exposure to smoke ends and do not cause long-term health problems. People who have difficulty breathing, have a prolonged cough or tightness in their chest should make their own GP team their first call. They can tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently. In an emergency always phone 111.

Most people are very unlikely to have any long-term health effects but people with pre-existing respiratory (lung) illness or heart disease may experience an exacerbation of their condition.


You may need to close your business if you are in an affected area, or you may have employees who are unable to get to work. It may be difficult for employees to get in contact with you as phone and internet may be affected. Transportation is also an issue, as some roads are closed and public transport has been affected.Please bear these things in mind when dealing with your staff.


The key is communication. Like all emergency situations of this nature, you are faced with an unusual situation, and some of it is probably not covered by employment agreements. It is very important that employers and employees are talking to each other.

  • Be flexible. This is a time for employers and employees to be understanding and to take a common-sense approach to getting the business up and running.
  • If employees are concerned about their safety in getting to, or going back to work, they should raise their concerns with their employer.
  • If employers are asking employees to do work they don’t normally do (for example, clean-up work), both sides need to ensure they’re comfortable with this, and safety must be a top priority.
  • People may want to focus on family rather than work.
  • Working with staff health and safety representatives and union representatives will be of assistance in some work places.
  • Work together to find practical solutions.
  • Recognise that this is a significant event: -People react differently in these types of situations; - some may need extra support; - Some will want to focus on caring for their family; - Others will be best supported by assisting to keep things running

An individual employee has the right to raise concerns and refuse to do work they consider unsafe. Discuss the work and the concerns before it gets to this point. If you have decided it is safe share your knowledge and reasoning with staff alongside the decision.


Who decides if workers have to go to work if the business is open?

Employers and employees should talk to each other about what is happening with the workplace. Discuss and reach an appropriate agreement.

If a staff member needs to stay home to look after their family – how does that work?

Both parties should take a practical approach to this situation. Currently some schools are closed and this will affect those with children to care for. Employers should discuss the employee’s needs in these circumstances, recognising the nature of the event, the disruption it has caused and the need for flexibility.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the workplace is safe?

This is the responsibility of the PCBU / employer under the Health and Safety At Work Act. In extreme circumstances, the employer may need to obtain expert information to ensure safety and /or reassure employees of workplace safety.

What if it is a usual day of work for my employees and the business is closed. Do I pay employees? My employee can’t get into work today for good reason. Should I pay them?

The answer to these (and similar questions) will depend on the employment agreement in place. If the employment agreement is clear about what to do, you should be guided by your agreement. The Restaurant Associations Permanent Employment Agreement has a business interruption clause which can be enforceable where business operations are interrupted by unforeseen events beyond your control, such as a natural disaster.

Where a business is closed due to circumstances beyond the control of the Employer (even for a couple of days) it is a business interruption. The clause in the updated agreements states that an employer will consult with an employee about any decision regarding payment for the day(s) the business is closed. Therefore we advise business owners to speak with their employees before making a decision on whether they will be paid or not.

This conversation may include discussions about whether there was alternative work available elsewhere for the employee, and if not, whether it was appropriate that the employee be paid, take leave without pay, or take annual leave etc. If the decision was made not to pay the employee, it is open for the employee to challenge it, however, if the above process is followed you will be unlikely to have any problems.

NOTE: for employee’s employed after 1st April, 2016, you will have a cancellation clause in your employment agreement and this clause may be used in these types of circumstances. However, we recommend that you are consistent in your treatment of all employees in this time - ie if you are in a situation where half of your employees have a shift cancellation clause in their agreements and half that do not, then we would recommend that you use the business' business interruption clause for consistency in this situation.

Does an employer have the right to require workers to go to work and help with clean up?

This is an area for discussion on practical solutions. Employers want their businesses open to provide service to customers, and to be able to pay their employees. If employees are concerned about doing this work, they should discuss it with the employer and if they are being asked to do work they don’t normally do, there should be a discussion about the employee’s capability to do the work, and about supervision, and, especially, what protective gear employees will be provided with. The primary concern at all times should be individual safety.

What safety gear should be used in clean up?

The primary concern at all times should be individual safety. This means that appropriate protective clothing and equipment should be used when required. At a minimum, this would generally include heavy shoes/boots, a helmet and safety glasses and a protective jacket and trousers if required.


The unpredictability of the fire and the course it may take poses some threat to continuity of power supply to the Port Hills and the greater city. It is possible that there will be further outages until the fires are fully extinguished. Orion, the City’s line company, urges residents in the Port Hills area to take particular care around electricity at this time.

For updates on outages around the city visit Orion Group http://www.oriongroup.co.nz/ or call 03 363 9898 for more information.


If you are in an affected area, please be aware that Health and Safety is paramount - don’t rush in. Stand back and make a sensible, safe plan for your workplace.

Follow the emergency response procedures as per your workplace health and safety programme. The Restaurant Association's Health & Safety Manual has a number of useful templates to use.

If you don’t have the expertise to verify the safety of your building and equipment, get an expert in to assist you.

You can call WorkSafe if you have any concerns or questions about the safety of your premises on 0800 030 040.

Here’s a basic emergency checklist of things you should consider if your workplace has been affected by a disaster such as earthquake, or fire in this case. Make sure that you make your checks in writing:

  • Check for basic building structural stability: Check for basic sanitation, eg running contamination free water; Check that toilets are working; Check that emergency egress and support equipment hasn’t been compromised
  • Check for live electrical cables, or gas leaks
  • Check the integrity of the water and sewage lines
  • Check for unstable stock, equipment or machinery inside the building
  • Check for chemical spills
  • Check security issues – refer to the NZ Police or your security firm if you have concerns
  • A full hazard identification should be made and plans to eliminate and minimise where practicable
  • Remember it is possible that there are new and unusual hazards in your place of work that didn’t exist before. Your current hazard register should be considered inadequate
  • Recognise that the RIGHT DECISION is the SAFE DECISION
  • Make yourself aware of any requirements of the authorities (Civil Defence, regional and local authorities etc) and act in accordance with those requirements
  • As a business owner or manager, the Health and Safety At Work Act requires you to provide a safe workplace for your employees, contractors you might engage and others who might be entering your premises, eg shoppers
  • Employees also have a responsibility to ensure their own safety and the safety of others.


Please be aware that members can call our insurance partners the Crombie Lockwood team on 0800 252 461. They will have access to the best advice available.

Key Crombie Lockwood broker contacts:

  • The Crombie Lockwood claims number is 0800 252 461
  • The FaB plan assessing advisor is Crawfords NZ: 0800 665656
  • For all and any enquiries – urgent or general, Satpreet Chandra is the FaB Scheme liaison within Crombie Lockwood and is available on 09 3740697.
  • Christchurch: Nick Tremewan - 03 339 7946 email: nick.tremewan@crombielockwood.co.nz


Christchurch City Council03 941 8999

Selwyn District Council03 347 2800

NZTA 0800 4 Highways (0800 44 44 49) www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information

Citizens Advice Bureau 0800 367 222 www.cab.org.nz

Get Ready Get thru www.getthru.govt.nz

Kidsline0800 54 37 54 (24/7) www.kidsline.org.nz

Youthline 0800 376 633 Free TXT 234 www.youthline.co.nz

Healthline 0800 611 116 (24/7) www.health.govt.nz

Metservice www.metservice.com

GeoNet www.geonet.org.nz

Red Cross www.redcross.org.nz

IRD 0800 775 247 www.ird.givt.nz

ACC Claims 0800 101 996 www.acc.co.nz

Plunketline 0800 933 922 (24/7) www.plunket.org.nz

Victim Support 0800 842 846 (24/7) www.victimsupport.org.nz

Salvation Army 04 384 5649 www.salvationarmy.org.nz


Our RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION HELPLINE - 0800 737 827 - is always available. We are happy to hear from you regardless of your situation so please do not hesitate to call the helpline 24/7.

Information is also available on the Restaurant Association website, www.restaurantnz.co.nz.

We also have people nearby who can come visit if you need them to:

Sarah Kymbrekos (Membership Co-ordinator Christchurch), 027 545 8002

Sam Crofskey (Canterbury Branch President), 021 380 386

This guideline provides general overarching information but should not be considered legal advice.