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Targeted support needed for struggling sectors

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson says ongoing targeted support for those sectors unable to operate at Alert Level 3 or restricted to operating at a reduced capacity will be important given the ongoing impact these businesses continue to face.

Today the Prime Minister confirmed that the country will remain at Alert Level 4 until 11.59pm Tuesday, 31 August, and then all of New Zealand south of the Auckland boundary will move to Alert Level 3. The Prime Minister also indicated today that at this stage, the majority of the country will be in Alert Level 3 for one week with Cabinet reviewing again on 6 September, with the hope to keep lowering restrictions.

"It is positive to get certainty now of our move to Alert Level 3 for Wednesday, and we also welcome the signal by Government and the advance warning for the next level change, which will be helpful for businesses to plan ahead. However we do need to acknowledge that at Alert Level 3 and even at Alert Level 2, there will be businesses that are still unable to operate, or if they are, then it may be at a reduced capacity that may not be cost-effective.

"It will be crucial that there is ongoing support for those sectors - in particular, sectors such as hospitality, tourism and major events that rely on face-to-face customer interactions. While it is positive that there are support initiatives such as the Resurgence Support Payment and the Wage Subsidy Scheme - with the second branch of the wage subsidy from 3 September - salary and wages are only one of the financial overheads experienced by businesses, who also have to cover rent, insurance, and so on.

"Keeping in mind too that many of these businesses are still recovering from the lockdown and restricted operating environment of March-May 2020, compounded by a winter season that is typically slower for these sectors, and exasperated further by closed borders and no international visitors. While it is good to see locals supporting locals, until we get the borders re-opened, and find a way to keep businesses open and operating safely in a COVID environment that does not involve the yo-yoing of Alert Levels, that local support will not be enough and many businesses - in particular, small businesses - will struggle, and in some cases may not be able to remain viable.

"We also know that every time Auckland is in lockdown this also has a significant impact on many local businesses. In the early 2020 lockdown, the loss of income from Auckland travellers was costing the Canterbury region $1million a day according to Government data, including $850,000 in Ōtautahi Christchurch - and they’ve been in three lockdowns so far, including this extended one.

"Every day matters for every business and the livelihoods of our community."

A fully funded COVID-19 Business Helpline service is available for all businesses in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the South Island, the phone number is 0800 50 50 96.

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