18 Aug 2021

South Island businesses support lockdown: 'We're gutted but we understand'

7:14 pm on 18 August 2021

South Island businesses are standing behind the lockdown, saying it is a gutting but necessary decision.

Coronet Peak ski field's first day open on 26 June 2020.

NZ Ski chief executive Paul Anderson said Coronet Peak and the Remarkables had 30 centimetres of fresh powder while Mt Hutt received 40cm - he was gutted about the lockdown, but said the call needed to be made. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

It's been more than a year since a community case was confirmed in the South Island - but it has joined the rest of the nation at alert level 4.

The lockdown started just after South Island ski fields received their best snow dump of the year.

Looking at the snow capped mountains, NZ Ski chief executive Paul Anderson said Coronet Peak and the Remarkables had 30 centimetres of fresh powder while Mt Hutt received 40cm.

He was gutted about the lockdown, but said the call needed to be made.

"The storm that's just rolled through dropped the best snow we've had all season on the mountains and we've had really solid period post school holidays. So we know that a lot of people were prepared to travel and come and visit Queenstown, and Methven," Anderson said.

"We're gutted but we understand the risks with this Delta strain, we're going to do what we can to get on top of it."

Anderson was hopeful a short, sharp lockdown would be enough.

But he understood why the government was taking a cautious approach and locking the South Island down too.

"The Delta strain has been shown to be very infectious. There are a lot of people travelling around New Zealand so there is a strong possibility that the strain could have made it to the South Island and with very low vaccination rates, the only defence is to go to a big lockdown.

"So I think the answer is really there to get going with the vaccination programme and get us all vaccinated so we can operate a little bit more normally even with Covid."

iFly Queenstown owner Matt Wong was expecting the lockdown news

"Certainly for us, we'll be hurting quite a bit over the next couple of weeks. We know that obviously locked down we'll have no trade at all. We still have overheads going out and we still want to support our staff," Wong said.

"That's a priority for us right now as making sure we look after our people. It will have a flow on effect. We know Auckland is going to be locked down for another seven and that's a very large part of our market."

Wong was preparing for a hard slog if visitors - particularly Aucklanders - were cut off for weeks.

But he said the national lockdown was the right call.

"Part of the reason is Queenstown is a gateway, I guess, for Auckland and a lot of the big cities in New Zealand and we have a bit of a transient population with people coming in and out all the time.

"So there has been a lot of movement in the last week or two. And certainly with school holidays, we've had a lot of Aucklanders and North Islanders coming through to the South Island and so in order to capture it and make sure that we do a good job with it and doesn't turn into a New South Wales sort of incident. It is the right move do."

Over on the West Coast in Reefton, Dawson's Hotel co-owner Helen McKenzie spent the morning tidying up the hotel and fielding cancellations.

"Most of them are just saying they're just putting the travel plans on hold until they know what's going to happen. I don't think any of us think this is only gonna last for three days.

"We won't go back down to level one, we'll go in to two or three, and at three, we can't open anyway and two is obviously a lot more work and a lot more cost to keep it operating."

Businesses said they would be glued to the daily Covid-19 updates, hoping for better news.


This is an official Covid-19 ALERT.

All of New Zealand is now at Covid-19 alert level 4.

The alert level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland & Coromandel Peninsula which is likely to remain at level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

A community case of Covid-19 has been identified.

Stay at home where possible & follow the Alert Level 4 guidelines. This will stop the spread of Covid-19 and SAVE LIVES.

Everyone is asked to:

Wear a mask and keep a 2 metre distance from others whenever you leave your home.

If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.

Keep on scanning QR codes whenever you leave your home.

Practice good hygiene - wash hands often.

Services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics & petrol stations will stay open at Alert Level 4.

For more information on Alert Level 4 go to [the government website www.covid19.govt.nz]


RNZ is the statutory Lifeline Utility responsible for radio broadcasting under the Emergency Management Act 2002 and it has a memorandum of understanding with Government which has been activated to help deal with potential health issues related to the pandemic. RNZ's Lifeline Utility obligations do not affect our editorial independence as a public media organisation or the rigour of our news gathering and reporting operations.

As New Zealand's Lifeline Utility radio broadcaster, RNZ is required to maintain essential public information channels and news during times of national emergency and we are committed to supporting all New Zealanders.

We are also committed to looking after the health and well-being of our staff.

RNZ will continue to provide essential information services - broadcasting and publishing critical public service announcements on air, on our website and via social media channels. Comprehensive news will be available on air and via our website and digital services.

If necessary RNZ Concert and RNZ Pacific will carry news and information from RNZ National. Parliament will continue to be broadcast on the AM network when the House is sitting. As the country's public service media organisation, RNZ is committed to supporting all New Zealanders.

Kia Kaha - Stay Strong

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs