Heart of the City slams delay with targeted financial support, as latest city centre GDP results worst in over two decades
At the worst time in the pandemic for Auckland’s city centre, Heart of the City says the delay with sustainable financial support is inexcusable as this situation was anticipated.
Heart of the City’s latest spending results show the severity of the ongoing impact to hundreds of city centre businesses, with the December quarter -51% down* versus the same time in 2020, equating to $200M in lost spending in just three months. When you add in the lockdown from 18 August, this figure rises to nearly $350M.
The city centre has also experienced its worst GDP in over two decades with 2021 GDP results** showing a -4.6% decline, worse than the -0.9% result during the GFC.
Viv Beck, Heart of the City Chief Executive says “How many tragic stories and how much data needs to be told before the severity of this situation is understood? After two years of cumulative impacts, we’re seeing sectors such as hospitality and related businesses haemorrhaging. We’re aghast that after asking Treasury last September to reassess a scheme to provide sustainable financial support that would put more money in the hands of those who need it with less debt for the Government, and the Minister of Finance telling us in November it was being considered, there is nothing on offer at time when businesses need it most.“
Beck says that “Targeted financial support is the only option unless there is a significant change in the approach to the COVID response - such as changing the isolation rules, making RAT testing available for all businesses, getting people safely back to the office, bringing a managed border opening forward. The end of the month is looming and rent payments are due, and we are hearing of closures daily. It’s unacceptable that it’s taken so long and so much heartache to get nothing tangible on the table to give people hope for their survival as we enter the third year of significant covid impacts.”
Beck says that “The city is open for business under Red and there are safe activities here for people to enjoy, as well as measures to protect office workers. However, the reality is that there was a marked drop in the number of people here when we moved to Red - businesses are open but many of their customers are not here. The wider macro-economic story is now echoing what we are seeking on the ground and we need this to stimulate Ministers and officials to move quickly – as many different groups and MPs have been asking them to do for some time.”
“Our city centre has a lot to offer and we remain confident for the longer term future, but there needs to be an urgent intervention. It’s simple - offer targeted financial support now until there’s a sustainable flow of customers or change the approach. The cost of doing nothing is too great and as well as the high cost on people’s lives and livelihoods, we run the risk of not having a vibrant heart just when we want to showcase our city when the border reopens,” says Beck.
Notes to Editors:
Heart of the City is asking for sustainable and targeted financial Support for impacted businesses, this includes:
Targeted financial support through until the Green Traffic Light (Wage Subsidy & Resurgence Payment) which recognises different levels of financial disadvantage.
Access to low cost, easy to repay money. Heart of the City asked Treasury to reassess Dr Richard Meade’s “COVID loans” in September 2021, asking:
If you support it, when and how could it be implemented?
If you do not support it, why not and what do you think is a more sustainable, equitable and targeted approach?
*Verisk Marketview, December quarter results.
**Infometrics NZ, https://ecoprofile.infometrics.co.nz/Auckland%20City%20Centre/Gdp