Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Auckland businesses on the brink need help now, industry groups say

As Auckland braces for another two weeks of level 3 lockdown, hospitality groups say their sector needs more targeted financial support now and the South Island needs to be dropped down to alert level 1.

They did get a slither of good news in that Finance Minister Grant Robertson intends to announce an “enhanced business support” package on Friday. But the mood will only have worsened among business owners in New Zealand’s biggest city.

With Auckland set to remain at the current alert level for the next two weeks, the Restaurant Association is calling on the Government to urgently act on its eight-point proposal of ideas to assist hospitality.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said: “The Auckland hospitality industry continues to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is time that our Government recognised this by providing financial relief that is specific and targeted to our sector.”

“Wage subsidy and resurgence support payments are not enough – our businesses are on the brink and something more must be done.

“Whilst it’s good to see Northland moving down the alert levels, we really do need to see more support for those parts of the country operating under greater restrictions,” Bidois said.

In September, Bidois unveiled stage one of the “Future of Hospitality Roadmap” which focused on reopening and sets out the immediate steps needed to support the full reopening of the sector over the short-term, in line with broader Covid-19 pandemic developments.

In a submission to Robertson then, the Restaurant Association put forward eight practical solutions to get businesses back on their feet.

Among them is the industry’s call for the Government to continue the wage subsidy in level 2, a continued “lockout subsidy”, a one-off “reopening payment”, and various vouchers and incentives to encourage customers to support their local businesses.

Then Bidois said, stages two and three, were still under review, and would focus on recovery and sustainability and outline guidelines for a profitable and sustainable hospitality business model.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland will stay at level 3 with current restrictions that are already in place for the next two weeks at least.

She could not say exactly how long Auckland would be at level 3 before restrictions eased further.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said the extension for level 3 in Auckland is another blow to the already battered Auckland operators who will have zero revenue for a minimum of eleven weeks.

She said the industry also pleads to the Government to move South Island to level 1.

“Confusing, frustration and an urgent plea to Government from the hospitality and accommodation to share the plan for South Island to move to level one,” White said.

“It was a relief for some businesses in Northland but frustration continues for operators from Waikato who will have to wait till Thursday to hear if they will be able to trade over the long weekend.

Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said the only good news from today’s Covid-19 announcement was that Auckland would be hanging its hope on tailored support which the Government said they were going to be releasing on Friday.

“To me, this is the only good news they’ve got,” Barnett said.

“The wage subsidy has already proven that it was not going to be enough to save businesses and what we have seen is that there is many businesses out there who are just surviving in the sea of debt and are desperate to get back to work”

“And the reality is, this is just killing livelihoods,” he said.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the brutal reality is that Auckland retail businesses continue to face uncertainty with no end in sight.

“Most retail businesses are operating with almost no revenue coming in, while fixed expenses mount up.More Government support is desperately required by businesses if they are to survive, and it is pleasing that the Government will announce a new support package on Friday.Retail NZ hopes that package will be flexible with greater support for those businesses that are suffering the most.

“Aside from financial support, a clear commitment to dates for allowing businesses to re-open is important.Businesses, employees and customers need to be able to plan, and setting a clear date will create a sense of urgency for those still to be vaccinated.

“All businesses also need certainty that they will not face a personal grievance from disgruntled workers if the implement a toolkit of measures, including vaccine or testing requirements for employees.An early announcement that this is happening will allow employers to help support the vaccination effort even more than they are now.”


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