30 Mar 2020

Auckland business body calls for rent reprieve

5:33 pm on 30 March 2020

The Auckland Business Chamber is calling for a rent reprieve for commercial tenants during the lockdown to prevent businesses closing for good.

Chief executive Michael Barnett said many good businesses were now without income while paying rents that would force them to close.

Auckland's Queen Street on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

He said many businesses could not afford to continue paying rent during the lockdown.

"Unless some arrangement's made, the businesses are not going to be able to move forward. The level of debt they may accumulate over a couple of months or longer is going to take them out of the market," he said.

"That means New Zealand is not going to be in a good space for small medium businesses that make up so much of the market."

He said the government's wage subsidy scheme was helping to protect jobs but now businesses needed a solution for rent.

"One major cost has been met and the government has been superb in the way they've done that but the thing that could decimate so many businesses is their ability to pay for their accommodation," he said.

Barnett said landlords, local and central government needed to offer businesses some rent reprieve.

Meanwhile, a Mayoral Advisory Panel of leaders in the business and public sectors will act as a conduit for communication between government and Auckland's business community.

Social development minister Carmel Sepuloni will be the liaison between the panel and the COVID Cabinet Committee, reporting to Government.

Mayor Phil Goff said the panel would identify problems which needing addressing to help Auckland's businesses and workers during the lockdown.

"Auckland is 38 percent of the country's GDP and we have never had to shut the city down like this. These are extraordinary times and it is important that local government keeps engaged with our business community," he said.

"The Business Advisory Panel is another mechanism of keeping abreast of what is going on in the city in addition to our other already established networks like local business associations, the IMSB and community and NGO organisations."

He said the panel would also help the city transition back to normal economic activity when the lockdown was lifted.

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