5 Aug 2020

Auckland economy: Crisis summit to work out Covid-19 recovery plan

8:33 am on 5 August 2020

Auckland business leaders and the city's economic development agency are holding a day-long summit to thrash out a Covid-19 economic recovery plan.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER, 2017: Auckland downtown aerial view.

Photo: 123RF

They acknowledge the city's economy is fragile, with growth forecast to fall by 6 percent this year.

Figures from the development agency, ATEED, show 150 Auckland businesses a day are contacting a Covid-19 support line asking for help.

ATEED says 70 percent of its jobs were being supported in mid-July by wage subsidies. It is predicting 40,000 to 50,000 Aucklanders may lose their jobs in the pandemic recession.

Close to 4500 Auckland firms have registered with the government's regional business partner network since the country went into lockdown - almost four times the number for the whole of last year.

The network allows businesses to access $5000 for specialist advice, and so far nearly 3000 have used the vouchers.

ATEED chief executive Nick Hill said Auckland was affected more immediately than other parts of the New Zealand economy, but could potentially recover more quickly.

"We are basically a gateway economy, we're more connected to the rest of the world than the rest of the New Zealand economy and so we are very exposed when borders are restricted or shut.

"We see that play out in sectors like tourism, international education, but also sectors like manufacturing where you also require imports and exports."

It was unlikely tourism would quickly return to previous levels so the city needed to support parts of the economy that could grow, such as technology and advanced manufacturing.

"We can think about a smart border into the future - we will be living with this pandemic for quite some time, with restrictions - so how we think about that border operating over time becomes really critical.

"International education is an enormously important sector particularly for Auckland - $2.8 billion - there's no reason you can't have international students returning because they can take quarantine and you've got degrees of control over them that you don't have with other sectors.

Hill said one of the challenges was how to shift Aucklanders who become unemployed into other sectors that require workers now, such as the construction sector which previously employed a lot of overseas workers.

Shopping mall Sylvia Park in Auckland during level 2.

Shopping mall Sylvia Park in Auckland during alert level 2. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Local visitors spent $153m dollars in the city in May, half what they spent in the same month last year.

Many in the hospitality industry have reduced their opening hours and days to stay viable.

Destination Auckland 2025 Industry Leaders Group chair Martin Snedden said it had has been a "hard road" since Covid-19 hit, and Auckland had not attracted as many visitors as the rest of the country. Following lockdown, people wanted to get outdoors and city breaks were not on the cards, he said.

The focus now is on attracting visitors to events in the city in spring and summer.

ATEED has a calendar of activities including the month-long arts festival Elemental, the Diwali festival of lights and the first America's Cup challenger race in December.

It's hoped they will bring close to $20m into the economy - slightly ahead of the $18m lost earlier this year because of Covid 19 cancellations.

Tourism New Zealand will run an urban tourism campaign to help promote Auckland to the regions later this year.

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