11 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Christchurch businessman calls for more government business support

9:08 pm on 11 April 2020

Prominent Christchurch businessman Antony Gough believes half the city's hospitality businesses could go bust without further urgent government support.

Christchurch on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Christchurch in lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Gough - who developed the $140 million Terrace precinct in Christchurch - said time was running out for more government help, with retailers and hospitality firms facing serious cash-flow problems.

His comments followed Thursday's announcement by Christchurch City Council's economic development agency of a business support subsidy of $1000 per business for eligible businesses to access advice in continuity planning, finance and cash-flow, human resources, and health and well-being.

Gough said the current support packages did not address those concerns.

"We are greatly concerned that with losing a substantial amount of hospitality and retail because of rents and other costs, the economy won't bounce back with the unemployment benefits. It [the economy] actually needs commerce to drive it up."

Gough said he had kept all his staff on full pay, and said the wage subsidy was "great", but believes without help for costs like rent, the country could go into an economic depression.

He also labelled the city's economic development agency, ChristchurchNZ, as a primarily a marketing agency, and believed that's where their efforts should be focused.

"ChristchurchNZ should be focusing on what can they do once the gates are open, how can we promote Christchurch to get going," Gough said.

He was also critical of the local support being discussed.

"There seems little support other than saying they might allow us to delay payment of rates."

ChristchurchNZ's economic modelling said the city's economic output for 2020/21 could shrink by between 4 and 17.5 percent.

There could also be between 9000 to 36,500 job losses over the next 12 months.

As a comparison, the pre-Covid-19 unemployment in the city from December last year was 8600.

In addition to the business support subsidy, it is also offering the regional business partner network subsidy, which has had a $4 million investment from the government.

The regional business partner network subsidy offers eligible businesses up to $5000 each to seek professional advice.

The regional subsidy is being done in partnership with the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise North Canterbury and South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce.

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