Auckland hospitality industry calls for more targeted help as restrictions remain –

The Auckland hospitality industry continues to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic and is calling on the Government to provide targeted financial relief for the sector, as restrictions ease for venues in other parts of the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced a roadmap to ease Auckland’s level 3 restrictions, and a tweak to alert level 2 rules which would see the lifting of the 100-person cap on hospitality venues.
While the removal of gathering numbers in alert level 2 areas was welcome, Auckland venues in level 3 were still hurting and needed more help, according to the Restaurant Association. Infometrics estimated the hole in Auckland’s hospitality spending has hit $281 million since the start of the Delta lockdown.
“The Auckland hospitality industry has time and again been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is time that our Government recognised this by providing financial relief that is specific and targeted to our sector,” association chief executive Marisa Bidois said in a statement.
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“Whilst business owners are in the main supportive of the elimination strategy they do not support the blind eye that has been turned to their financial plight,” she said. “Our businesses are on the brink and something more must be done.”
The wage subsidy would still be available to businesses in Auckland but Bidois said wage subsidy and resurgence support payments were not enough.
The association has developed its own Future of Hospitality Roadmap which it says would help businesses get back on their feet by focusing on reopening, recovery and sustainability.
The Government’s “roadmap” to incrementally reduce lockdown restrictions in Auckland will allow people to meet outdoors, and the reopening of retail shops, hospitality venues and schools.
The three-step plan comes as Auckland entered its eighth week of lockdown, and the Government struggles to eliminate the persistent spread of the Delta strain of Covid-19.
The Auckland Business Chamber said the Government’s phased, three-stage transition plan to slowly lift restrictions leaves business desperate for revenue, burdened with debt, and shortchanged in the financial support being offered.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that policymakers and politicians are not listening to business to develop a fairer, more balanced approach to secure commercial, employment and economic outcomes for the good of all, not just responding to health risks,” said chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.
“Extension of the wage subsidy for employees and the resurgence payment for employers to only partially offset weekly overheads does not cut it.”
Barnett said if vaccination was the way out of restrictions, then the Government needed to enable businesses to implement a “no jab no job” regime, get access to saliva testing and as the country’s biggest employer, get all its staff vaccinated at once.
Auckland business groups united to call for the Government to continue to offer financial support for Auckland during level 2 for qualifying businesses, including the wage subsidy and weekly resurgence payment.
The pathway for Auckland announced on Monday did not confirm this and businesses needed certainty, according to the group of 11 business associations representing tens of thousands of businesses.
The group said businesses can’t keep waiting to hear what help might be made available at the next announcement.
“The mechanism exists and is simple to execute – it just needs a Government decision to do it,” they said in a statement.
Auckland has faced a total of 29 weeks of restrictions since the outbreak of Covid-19, the group said.
“These effects are cumulative and the long tail of Covid-19 is hurting many businesses across a range of sectors. Thousands of business owners, their staff and suppliers face an uncertain future as they head into the Christmas season,” the group said.
The Cabinet has decided Auckland would move to the “first step” of its phased plan from 11:59pm on Tuesday. Under this step, outdoor “catch-ups” would be allowed in groups of 10 people from no more than two households.
Early childhood education centres will reopen, but there will be a limit of 10 children in a bubble, and teachers will need to be tested for Covid-19.
Recreation around the city, such as going to the beach and bowls can resume. Funerals attended by 10 people will be allowed.
Under the second step, public facilities such as libraries, pools and zoos will be able to reopen, as will retail shops. Cafes and food courts will be able to offer takeaway services. The numbers limit on outdoor gatherings and funerals will increase to 25 people.
Under step three, hospitality venues, hairdressers and other “close contact businesses” will be able to be opened with a 50-person limit. Indoor gatherings will be permitted.
This third step would be, in effect, a more stringent Covid-19 alert level 2. Throughout, the border around Auckland would remain and be routinely reviewed by the Government.
“We do not have a date for these [second and third] steps, but we will make an assessment of our readiness to step into them on a weekly basis, starting from next Monday,” Ardern said.
“At the conclusion of this three-stage transition period, we will likely move to a framework that reflects a more vaccinated population, and the ability to use vaccine certificates as a tool in the near future to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, especially in crowded indoor settings.”
This new framework of restrictions would be produced by the Government next week, she said.
© 2021 Stuff Limited


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