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Taranaki Businesses See Big Impact From COVID-19

A Venture Taranaki survey of the Taranaki region’s enterprises has found that more than 70% are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their business activity, and 80% have accessed government support packages.

Common themes that emerged from the survey, which was taken over two weeks from 4–20 April while New Zealand was at Alert Level 4, are threats of a decrease in or loss of revenue, cashflow difficulties, and ongoing financial viability.

Venture Taranaki, the region’s economic development agency, conducted the survey to help with understanding the current and anticipated effects of COVID-19 on local enterprises and to gather feedback on what support should be available, now and in the near future.

Of the key themes that emerged, 90.3% of enterprises indicated that the largest impact has been the severe reduction and loss of income in such a short period of time. At 55.9% of responses, the second highest impact has been cashflow difficulties. The third highest response, at 44.8%, was for ongoing financial viability, with one responder highlighting that while the wage subsidy has been helpful to keep the household bills afloat, the business bills are faltering.

The other impacts identified by enterprises were the ability to retain and pay staff, challenges with supply of materials or components for manufacturing, and import and export challenges. The positive impact of the need for more staff only garnered a 2.1% response. Likewise, the impact of an increase in revenue or demand for product or service only received 1.4% of responses.

“The results reinforce the nature of conversations Venture Taranaki is having with Taranaki enterprises. Our Enterprise Advisors have been providing enterprises with advisory support and access to funding support. In particular, the common concern we’re hearing during these conversations is the impact of and concern around cashflow and finances”, says Venture Taranaki chief executive Justine Gilliland

Justine also noted the time to look forward is coming, “Taranaki has been significantly impacted, but we need to work together to build our resilience and adopt a proactive approach. We need to act quickly to address vulnerabilities, rebuild confidence and livelihoods, mobilise activity and investment, and find ways to retain local jobs while seeking new opportunities in the face of change.”

The survey results have also revealed that there is an expectation that regional and national leadership has a strong role to play in planning, aiding and stimulating recovery. Responses such as the need for regional support for local investments, securing enterprise or community grants, and “buy local” promotion indicate the expectation Taranaki enterprises have of local government. Similarly, the extension of the wage subsidy, investment in large projects, and tax breaks were suggested responses for central government support.

Venture Taranaki will use the results to assist with planning for recovery support and reimagination for Taranaki’s ’return to better’.

Already, the survey responses have helped to shape the topics for Venture Taranaki’s current 'Ahead of the Curve' webinar series, a range of short, 30-minute presentations offering guidance and advice for enterprises. Increased innovation and entrepreneurship support will be another key area for Venture Taranaki in the coming months, alongside a ‘buy local’ campaign that is currently in the works.

While the survey results indicate that most Taranaki enterprises are focused on the immediacy of the current situation, they are also starting to look to the future.

“We are impressed with the resilience Taranaki business owners are showing, and their determination to recover, and in many cases, reimagine their enterprises”, Justine adds.

The survey results can be read here.

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