Auckland needs more than Orange on Monday
Heart of the City has a clear message for Government in advance of Cabinet’s decision on Monday. Auckland must shift to at least Orange and impacted businesses need ongoing financial support.
Aucklanders have been out enjoying the city since it shifted to Red on 3 December but ongoing restrictions for some sectors, many workers still at home and a lack of certainty of when major events can go ahead is extremely tough for impacted businesses.
“We’ve seen an uplift in spend and foot traffic since the new system was introduced, but it’s not enough for businesses that have faced major restrictions for so long. Compared with the same time last year, spending in the heart of the city is more than 40% down on average – even more when you compare with 2019. We’re not seeing a significant bounce back across the board and despite initiatives to increase spend and visitation, forward bookings for tourism, hospitality and accommodation providers are soft for January. It’s very concerning for businesses staring down the barrel of a quieter period until workers and visitors return,” said Viv Beck, Chief Executive of Heart of the City.
“Monday’s decision is critical - we must see a shift to at least Orange. This would give event organisers certainty, get the hospitality sector operating at full capacity and give more confidence to attract visitors. There must also be financial support for impacted businesses right through to Green and low cost, easy to repay money. Auckland has been somewhat of a sacrificial lamb through covid and our businesses must be supported.”
Heart of the City has asked for the wage subsidy and resurgence payment to remain in place until the green traffic light is reached. It also asked Treasury to consider COVID loans in September, an idea first put up by economist Dr Richard Meade in April 2020. And while the Minister of Finance has confirmed they are being considered, nothing has been announced as yet.
Dr Meade said this is a crucial tool as the Government signals the end of wage subsidies and resurgence support payments. “Many Auckland businesses have been doing it especially tough for the past three and a half months, as the price of keeping a lid on Delta for everyone’s benefit. Moving to the traffic light system only gives them a small trading window to claw back losses before the summer holiday slowdown. As existing support measures are wound down, this leaves a significant hole, especially with the uncertainty around Omicron. COVID loans enable businesses to borrow at low cost up to pre-Covid revenue levels, and they only need to be repaid when businesses have the money to do so. Offering financing like this would be sustainable and cost-effective, and offer businesses an effective lifeline to see them through the months ahead.”