Thursday, December 9

South Island companies want clarity on the duration of the blockade

Companies in the lower South Island are asking for greater certainty than the current approach to drip closures allows.

Fish and chips shops are closed under the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Some even say that a longer lockdown, signaled from the start, would have been preferable.

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern briefed the country on the possible appearance of the Delta variant last Tuesday, she said a short, sharp shutdown was needed to combat it.

But a week later, businesses in the lower South Island say it is anything but short, although they are feeling the sharp end.

Fiordland Community Board Chair Sarah Greaney, who also owned a business, said the drip closure had been disturbing to businesses in the area.

“We prefer to do a longer block and do it in one fell swoop, rather than going in and out of blocks or with continuous uncertainty,” he said.

“Sometimes I don’t think the central government really understands what they do to people on the ground who run small companies, or even larger companies, when they have a messier approach to things.”

The uncertainty surrounding the length of the lockdown meant that business owners even faced stressful decisions about whether to take available support, such as the wage subsidy.

“Many of them will need to access that wage subsidy immediately, but they will not want the complications of having to pay it back if we are not locked up for fifteen days,” he said.

“So give us some certainty, give us some clarity and don’t put additional pressure on companies, that will only make things more stressful.”

Business South CEO Mike Collins said feelings were mixed about whether a longer lockdown, signaled early on, would have worked better.

But many larger companies, with greater logistical concerns, expressed that view.

“There is some frustration from some organizations that the concept becomes a kind of drip release of how it might lead to closure. That is having an impact and causing a bit of frustration for companies and I have spoken with some organizations. They would have preferred “Let’s take a hit, if it’s going to be two weeks, let’s make that call from the beginning” so they can really plan. “

The shorter lockdown periods had given them false hope and they were now on the edge of their seats for Friday.

The government was scheduled to announce on Friday whether parts of the country outside of Auckland would change alert levels.

With no Covid-19 cases identified in the South Island during the current outbreak, many believed it was time for a drop in levels in the south.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ruth Stokes said she saw no reason why the South Island could not begin lowering alert levels if there were no cases by Friday.

“Friday night they are going to have a much more accurate picture. We know they are doing all the sewage testing, we know there are only a handful of people who are self-isolating on the South Island. So let’s find out. one way or another if it came out here or not, “he said.

“So I think … it will be a decision one way or another. It will be a significant extension as we have seen in Auckland or, if conditions are favorable, there will be a level change.”

If there were no change in alert level, companies would seek more support from the government, he said.

“If we go beyond Friday to a level 4 extension, what companies will really be looking for is some reassurance and some confidence around the financial support available.

“Incremental financial support – the two weeks for the wage subsidy, the week for the Covid resurgence payment – is a difficult requirement for companies like ours to work week to week, fortnight to fortnight.”

Regardless of what the government decides on Friday, Southern businesses just want Beehive to take them into account.

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