21 Oct 2021

Prolonged Covid-19 restrictions affecting Auckland businesses financially, mentally

7:53 am on 21 October 2021

Auckland's economic agency says its team is hearing stories of business closures and although more people are out and about they are not spending more.

A deserted central Auckland in the midst of the August 2021 lockdown.

A deserted central Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Robert Smith

Auckland Unlimited is concerned the slight easing in alert level 3 restrictions appears to have provided little economic relief - credit and debit card spending increased just 4 percent in the city for the week ending Sunday 10 October, the first week in which picnics were allowed, compared with the week before.

The council agency's chief executive Nick Hill said some businesses had exhausted every avenue to keep afloat, using savings and loans to bide their time.

"It's extremely tough. This is well beyond the challenges that we've had in previous lockdowns and that's because of the length of the lockdown it's because of the real uncertainty about how much longer it's going to happen," he said.

He said his team heard daily from businesses on the brink that had burned through personal savings and loans.

"Every day there are stories of individuals who are facing these choices or who have gone under, and beyond that the impact on mental health is certainly reaching levels beyond where we were previously."

Hill said the government needed to provide targeted support for Auckland businesses in the hardest-hit sectors.

The agency estimates the lockdown has so far cost the city's economy $5 billion, and that although more people are out and about they are not spending more.

Managing director of Flight Centre David Coombs told Morning Report he likes that National's plan has milestones and targets.

"What we really like for our industry is we can see in this plan a place where international borders reopen and that's absolutely the key."

He said the risk is that if New Zealand doesn't open up, it will get left behind.

Co-owner of the Vivace restaurant in downtown Auckland Mandy Lusk told Morning Report there's a lot of fear out there and anything to entice customers back is a good idea.

"Our business is like the living room for many inner city apartments and we need people to get back out, feel comfortable, start socialising safely again and I think so many people have been impacted financially, to get something little to get them back out would be great."

She supports reopening on 1 December.

The longer lockdown goes on, the dimmer the light at the end of the tunnel gets, she said.

"I think National's acknowledgement of those businesses forced to trade or not trade at all is gratefully received."

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