Auckland businesses hit hard by lockdown extension

The announcement of a continuation of the level 3 lockdown has been met with trepidation by Auckland businesses – with many teetering on the brink of collapse.

Auckland, New Zealand - January 04, 2019: People walking on Queen Street in Auckland CBD, New Zealand.

Queen Street in Auckland CBD.
Photo: 123RF

The current restrictions – Auckland at alert level 3, and the rest of the country at level 2 – had been due to lift at midnight Wednesday and ministers met this afternoon to review whether community transmission has been contained.

With handfuls of new Covid-19 cases continuing to be diagnosed in Auckland each day, they decided the risk of further spread was too great to lift restrictions so soon.

The restrictions have been extended a further four days, to 11.59pm on Sunday 30 August.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said city businesses were carrying the burden for the rest of the country.

“I have heard of businesses that are under immense strain – there are businesses that are mostly small, medium businesses who have loans that they’ve taken out that they’ve hooked into their home mortgages.

“And so their businesses are at risk, and their homes are at risk.”

Anne Mazer, who owns knitwear shops Great Kiwi Yarns and the Country Collection on lower Queen Street, had been hoping for a move to level 2 from Wednesday night, or even down to some sort of compromise – a level 1.5.

“We constantly hear that we’re all in this together. That’s really not what we see. We know, obviously, the whole country – the whole world – is in this but we feel like business owners are the ones that pay the price for everything,” she said.

“It’s just because the government dropped the ball – if they had done their testing people at the borders … it’s just common sense.”

Things have only just started getting back on track since the first lockdown, so a second round of restrictions – and today’s extension – make for desperate times, Mazer said.

“Before the whole thing started we had between 10 and 12 employees and [now] more or less we keep one full-time. So from 10 or 12 to one.

“Obviously I don’t even pay myself – I take the wage subsidy to put in the business or to pay my staff. I work crazy hours and I obviously haven’t touched one cent since the beginning.”

Kirsten Taylor’s natural therapy company SleepDrops has also taken a significant hit, and is operating with a skeleton staff.

“With Auckland going to lockdown level 3 we’ve lost a good 30 percent of revenue this month, on top the original hit back in March, April where we lost 90 percent.

“It’s sort of like a wave of knocks, like you’re in the boxing ring and you’re taking knock after knock.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cost to Auckland businesses of another Covid-19 transmission period would be far greater than four extra days’ lockdown.

“We know what the weekly cost is to the Auckland economy – it’s in the hundreds of millions – so we can make a fair assessment and say well, we’ll take ourselves for an extra four days which, keep in mind, takes in two business days and two retail business days, versus extending into a full transmission cycle.”

Ardern said more businesses would now be able to claim the wage subsidy – having experienced a revenue drop of at least 40 percent due to the latest lockdown.

Published at Mon, 24 Aug 2020 06:22:32 +0000
Source: Auckland businesses hit hard by lockdown extension