12 Oct 2021

Auckland businesses desperate for certainty, reopening targets

From Checkpoint, 5:11 pm on 12 October 2021

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff Thomas has told Checkpoint the government does not fully understand how small businesses in Auckland are suffering in the Delta outbreak lockdown. 

"It's fabulous to hear Grant Robertson so optimistic but I wonder who will be left to share his optimism. I don't think they fully grasp the enormity of what individual small business owners are suffering right now.

"There seems to be no pathway coming out for people to cling on to or work towards a framework to get their businesses back up and running. There are no targets being set.

"All the prime minister is talking about is picnics, bubbles and vaxathons. I don't think they understand the sentiment in the business world at all."

Thomas suspected the government will not be opening up Auckland until the R-rate of the virus is below one again, but he would like to see some targets based on vaccination rates.

"I think that would go a long to help people understand that there is a pathway out of this. I don't know what the percentage rate should be, that's where you need advice from health experts to verify, but I think there needs to be a set platform and framework to help people how we're going to get through this."

That's backed by members of the association, with 100 percent of those polled saying they want targets and milestones based on vaccination.

In the meantime, Thomas would like to see the government give some certainty that they will continue the wage subsidy and resurgence payments for Auckland businesses.

"What is frustrating, really frustrating, is the lack of communications to business to say 'this is what we are doing'.

"I know we are in a better position financially than we expected, which is fantastic, now lets come out to business and say, 'right guys, we are going to do X, Y, and Z to support you'. That gives business something to hold on to."

He says he knows business owners who are dipping into retirement savings or mortgaging their houses to stay afloat.

"The government support is not a panacea, but it is something. It is something to give them an ongoing lifeline."