20 Aug 2020

Covid-19: Northland economy hit by Auckland's level 3 restrictions

6:34 pm on 20 August 2020

Northland is effectively cut off since Auckland's level 3 restrictions were introduced, with travel controls contributing to lay-offs and disrupting supply lines in the country's northern tip.

Police checkpoint on SH1 in Warkworth, north of Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

While the Northland region is in alert level 2, its people and businesses are feeling the knock-on effects of the Auckland region being under alert level 3 with limited travel and drivers being stopped and questioned at 13 checkpoints around the city.

Kaipara District Mayor Jason Smith said freight was still getting through, but the flow of people and goods north was hit hard.

"We're having workers that are being laid off right now all across Northland because the supply chains are disrupted," Smith said.

"We're at level 2 - not at level 3 - but we're absolutely getting a whiplash effect."

Smith said keeping Covid-19 out of Northland was a top priority, but he believed a plan to somehow allow more movement between the region and the rest of the country was vital if a lockdown happened again.

"If it happens again, or this [lockdown] is extended, then the impact for Northland and the social well being of the people of Northland becomes increasingly troubled," he said.

"That's a real concern for us, let alone the economic well-being."

Smith suggested a special sticker in the windscreen of a car - permitting movement across the boundary - could be a solution in future.

A Kaipara construction company owner - who did not want to be named - worked in the Northland and Auckland areas.

He had eight workers who lived around Whangārei working on a housing subdivision in Warkworth.

This crew had been unable to go to work since the lockdown, despite seeking an exemption.

"[We] haven't heard anything back. At the moment, those guys are all using up their annual leave or unpaid leave to stay home because they're unable to get to site."

He had not made any staff redundant yet, but he said his business would be under real strain if another lockdown is imposed.

"We're only just getting back to close to where we were before the first lockdown now."

He said the wage subsidy helped, but only went towards worker's wages and did not help with other fixed costs.


Although Whangārei and the rest of Northland is in alert level 2, the region is getting "a whiplash effect" from Auckland being at level 3. Photo: 123RF

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Meanwhile, tourist businesses are also feeling the pinch.

Kauri Museum general manager Tracey Wedge said the attraction had 56 people through the doors the Monday before the lockdown.

This Monday, it plummeted to six people.

She said the museum relied solely on admission fees and retail sales to keep it afloat, meaning the roadblocks slashed their income.

"People traditionally come to us in vehicles, they drive from all over the country," Wedge said.

"We're a long way away from any airports - we're a destination museum in the country - [so] it's really quite a challenge for us to keep the doors open."

The managing director of supply firm The Produce Connection, Derek van der Kwaak, said delays due to roadblocks were causing a hiccup for freight.

"Some of the delays have been crazy," he said.

"The other day it took us three hours to move five kilometres from Wellsford to Te Hana."

A truck driver can legally work 14 hours a day, so sitting in traffic could push them into overtime, he said.

In future, he said roadblocks should be placed in the best location for separating traffic, rather than following a regional boundary.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

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