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Business groups unite to push Government for better support measures

High St in Auckland’s CBD is deserted during lockdown.Reuters/Fiona Goodall.

Business groups across New Zealand have voiced their frustration with the lack of clarity around what will get them out of lockdown, and have offered recommendations on how to better support the industry.

Last week, a coalition of industry players requested a roadmap to provide a framework for businesses to be able to safely reopen by 1 December 2021, financial support through existing mechanisms, and an activation fund to help local businesses get their feet off the ground in the coming months.

The group, which includes Auckland Business Chamber, Retail New Zealand and Heart of the City, said Auckland’s business have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and that they need urgent help from the Government.

“We are seeing business closures, job losses, growing debt and health and wellbeing impacts on business owners, staff and suppliers,” said Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck.

“These effects are cumulative and the long tail of Covid-19 is hurting many businesses across a range of sectors – thousands of businesses face an uncertain future as they head into the Christmas season.”

And, a report by Auckland Business Chamber said that 90 per cent of SME owners have seen a “significant” erosion in equity due to the more than 200 days the city has spent locked down, and that 75 per cent are using personal savings or mortgages to cover their losses.

Chief executive Michael Barnett said employers are critical of the Government’s health-focused strategy, and insist there are ways of mitigating the financial damage and impact its having on employer’s mental health and wellbeing.

“They’ve invested their lives in creating a viable business that feeds them, their staff, and community, [and] for many this endless lockdown will have diluted retirement funds and imposed debt on family homes,” Barnett said.

“Despite it all, 80 per cent of businesses say they are determined to survive, but will carry mental health scars that have damaged families, relationships and their confidence.”

The Government has said it will announce its own industry stimulus package on Friday, but the opposition party yesterday released its own roadmap for supporting businesses: the ‘Back to Business’ plan.

The plan would provide New Zealanders with $100 ‘dine and discover’ vouchers, as has been used in international cities, such as Sydney and Hong Kong, as well as relaxed social distancing rules for hospitality venues.

“National would provide a shot in the arm for these struggling sectors by encouraging Kiwis to get out and support their local businesses,” said the National’s tourism and small business spokesman Todd McClay, according to NZ Herald.

“This scheme would boost revenue, support local businesses and keep people in jobs [by] providing urgent support where it is might need.”

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