The move into Alert Level 3* will be of relief for Aucklanders who have done their bit to keep all of Aotearoa safe but it is not the time to become complacent. Mass mask wearing, getting vaccinated in large numbers and following the golden rules of lockdown gives us the most favourable chance of moving out of restrictions as soon as possible.
A robust health response is the best insurance for avoiding a return Alert Level 4 lockdown. At that setting up to 30% of Auckland’s economic activity is inhibited (approx. $100 million loss in GDP/day), while the reduction caused by Alert Level 2 is around 5%. This represents a significantly disparate impact on Auckland’s economy compared to the rest of New Zealand. Prior to the recent delta outbreak, Auckland had already spent nearly a month longer at Alert Level 3 than the rest of New Zealand due to community cases in August 2020 and February 2021. Over the 12 months ending March 2021, Auckland’s GDP fell 4.1% (-$4.98 billion), while the rest of NZ only fell 1.2% (-$2.38 billion), a $2.6 billion disparity. This aligns with spending data, which shows that spending in Auckland was down 7.5% over the same period, compared to only a 2% drop across the rest of New Zealand.
The hospitality and tourism sectors have been particularly hard hit by the extended lockdown. Due to spending more time at Alert Levels 3 and 2 in August and September 2020, as well as in February and March 2021, Auckland hospitality and accommodation spending was down 20.4% from April 2020 – March 2021, while the fall was only 7.5% across the rest of New Zealand. This data comes from Auckland Unlimited, the council CCO responsible for leading support for business. To receive regular updates subscribe via Business@aucklandnz.com.
Two key areas of financial support for businesses right now are the Resurgence Support Payment and the Wage Subsidy Scheme. Eligible businesses can apply for both of these payments. Helplines like the COVID-19 Business Helpline (0800 500 362) or Pacific Business Trust Helpline (0800 287 7526) are available to talk it through. The Mayor has raised with the Minister of Finance the need for further government support for businesses including extending financial support via the wage subsidy and continued resurgence payments throughout the duration of Alert Level 2. He’s also written to Minister Hipkins asking for consideration to be given to long-term, fit for purpose quarantine facilities out of the city centre.
Council is offering flexibility and support in a more relaxed approach during Alert Level 2 to help the hospitality sector. Fast-tracked new street trading licences and extensions to food-only dining applications are now available to Auckland businesses as they prepare for Alert Level 2 trading. Visit the council website for details. Find out what support is available to Auckland businesses here (this information was updated on 1 October).
I’ve also asked for the 21/22 postponement scheme for business rates to be re-established as I know that is another way council can provide support at this really difficult time. I’ve appreciated hearing from business association representatives with ideas and advice. Auckland Council has a role to reinvigorate economic activity across Auckland and in the city centre, as alert level restrictions allow. Please reach out for the support available.
An update for Ponsonby News October 2021
*at the time of writing the alert level change had just been announced