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Elimination of virus must not equate to elimination of business

Press release
Monday 24 Aug 2020

With many businesses at breaking point, no stone can be left unturned to ensure that eliminating the covid-19 virus does not translate into eliminating our country’s source of revenue and jobs. 

With a critical decision due today, Heart of the City is asking for a more holistic approach:

  • economic impacts to be high on the list of measures considered when decisions are made
  • a clear and sustainable plan to enable economic recovery
  • alternative funding mechanisms to provide targeted support to keep businesses afloat and people employed
  • recognition that moving in and out of restrictive alert levels should not be the default position - with assurance of controls to stop the virus at the border, and fast and effective tracing if it does get through, and the best possible methods utilised 
  • clear and consistent protocols that support business. 

For the quarter ending 30th June, the loss of spending in Auckland’s city centre, which accounts for around 20% of Auckland’s economy, was $257.7m (-60.6%) versus the same time last year.   Whilst domestic spending had been steadily increasing after the earlier lockdown, many businesses are still seriously impacted by the loss of international spending and some people still working from home.  

A further loss in spending of $19.4m (-74%) was incurred in the week of 10th August, which included 41/2 days at Level 3.

“With the sudden departure of a large number of office workers and students in Level 3, this is a serious situation, particularly as a return to Level 2 will still be difficult for many of our businesses unless safe trading is better geared to business success,” said Viv Beck, Chief Executive of Heart of the City.  “While there are willing ears in government agencies to listen to the plight for business, this needs to turn into action and take account of business feedback in a consistent and systematic way.  Survival and recovery will require collaboration across the public and private sector.”

“A huge cost is being borne disproportionately by a relatively small percentage of customer facing businesses which also face losing a disproportionate number of jobs.  These spending results show how crippling trading restrictions have been, with the latest wage subsidy extension providing only a short-term fix to help keep some businesses open.  Business closures will affect jobs and also have a significant impact on the hard-won vibrancy of our country’s biggest city centre.

“It’s time to give greater certainty for business in a highly uncertain environment. We need to ensure there is confidence about how we are going to deal with the virus and clusters going forward, to avoid the disruptive stop-start restrictions on the economy.  We want to see change now to ensure the best possible outcome that minimises the destruction of businesses and jobs.”