Covid-19: Wairarapa business confidence 'plummeting'

2:57 pm on 6 April 2020

Plummeting commercial confidence in Wairarapa will only be worsened as the heightened alert over Covid-19 continues, says the most recent survey by the region's chamber of commerce.

Mayor of Masterton Lyn Patterson. Masterton reached 33 degrees, prompting children still on school holidays to take shelter at home or the pool.

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Responses to the quarterly survey by the Business Wairarapa [BW] group found almost unanimous agreement that the virus and the response would have some impact.

Companies in the region feared the effect of the pandemic on business in the area, BW general manager Vicki Lee said.

"Wairarapa business confidence in the national economy has been in negative territory for 12 months now.

"And this further drop to net negative 66 percent confidence is not unexpected given the current climate in New Zealand and globally.

"Businesses' confidence in their own prospects, as well as the regional economy, also dropped over the quarter.

"When we asked respondents what the biggest barrier their business is currently facing, 31 percent mentioned Covid-19 to some extent," Lee said.

The survey, conducted in the run-up to the raising of alerts over the pandemic, received 48 responses, about a quarter of its membership.

It closed the day before alert Levels 3 and 4 were raised, but the impacts had already been felt.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said she understood the sentiments.

"It is certainly no surprise that businesses are feeling a lack of confidence as a result of Covid-19".

"That will no doubt have increased with the Level 4 lockdown.

"This is the most difficult situation any business operating today will have encountered, but Wairarapa businesses can be assured that Masterton District Council, working with the region's two other district councils, has already begun a process to identify what needs to be done to have the council and the community ready for the recovery phase."

Patterson said the councils are "taking steps to ensure our suppliers are paid quickly for their goods and services", and prioritising work to be done next financial year.

"On a larger scale, we are working regionally to identify significant projects that could attract central government support, fast-tracked to get the economy moving.

"There is no question we have a difficult road ahead, but we will be working closely with businesses to find out what support they need to re-boot their operations and keep people working.

"That is what will energise the recovery."

Business Wairarapa general manager Vicki Lee.

Business Wairarapa general manager Vicki Lee. Photo: LDR / Marcus Anselm

South Wairarapa mayor Alex Beijen said he felt everyone will show decreasing business confidence.

"South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) understands it plays an important part in the economy and is working with suppliers and central government on how key projects can be brought forward to begin post lockdown, to assist."

Beijen said SWDC was paying suppliers weekly now, rather than a month in arrears.

"We will work closely with any business to see what opportunities may lie within our organisation.

"It is important also to note any decrease in income to council has a very negative impact on businesses in the South Wairarapa and this will be taken into account in our Annual Plan consultation."

The survey found a low level of planning and business preparedness in times of disruption.

When asked if their business or organisation had any contingency planning in place, 10 percent of respondents had no contingency planning in place.

Fewer than 20 percent believed they had excellent contingency planning.

Lee said 23 percent had no form of business interruption insurance, and 37 percent said they were unsure about cover.

Even though pandemics and epidemics may be excluded, she was surprised by the high levels of companies who said that they did not have insurance, or were unsure of their cover, in an earthquake-prone region.

"We would highly recommend businesses talk to their insurance companies or brokers to see what cover they do have in place.

"If they are struggling to keep up with their payments, insurers are very willing to work with businesses to ensure they still have cover but perhaps defer payments for a month or two as we move through this challenging time."

Business Wairarapa's next survey is scheduled for May.

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