Coronavirus: Small-town New Zealanders think they should open earlier than rest of country

Small-town New Zealanders have told Newshub they should be able to open up shop earlier than the rest of the country.

Like all businesses, they're feeling the impacts of COVID-19 but say their smaller populations make social distancing and contact tracing easier.

In the quiet town of Maungaturoto, there's a buzz on the street. The green light for alert level 3 has locals dreaming of meat orders and butchers dreaming of finally fulfilling them.

"It's not the same as being open. We're delivering to people, just knocking on the door and putting their parcel down," butcher Pat Massey says.

The ban on business has hit the whole country hard. But small-town New Zealand wants size to count for something.

Brian Frogatt's owned his Dargaville gym for 29 years. He knows all his members personally and says it's easier to ensure social distancing.

"We should be able to open earlier than the bigger centres," he says.

"People are going to stay further apart and they're able to because we're not as crowded."

But if he's still locked up at level 3 it could be all over for the gym, and for the three staff he employs with it.

"[I'm] getting a bit nervous now because money has totally run out," he tells Newshub.

Research conducted by Retail NZ estimates around 7500 jobs have already been lost in the retail sector, and that number is expected to rise substantially when the wage subsidy comes to an end.

The step down from level 4 will ease the pressure slightly. But 100 Percent Fergus Appliances owner Claire Fergus worries mostly about what comes after that.

"People aren't going to want to spend money because they won't have money," she says.

Business owners hoping what money locals do have will be spent locally.

"We're all trying to shop local and if someone's run out of something and someone else has got it, we just hand it over, it's just helping each other in a crisis," says Josephine Bennetto, from Sitting Duck Takeaways.

Small businesses in small towns, now relying on that small-town spirit to survive.