'Bitterly disappointed': Auckland business representatives respond to COVID-19 alert level 3 extension

Retail clothing shop with closed sign
Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas and Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois are disappointed that COVID-19 alert level 3 has been extended. Photo credit: Supplied.

Auckland business representatives have labeled the four-day extension of COVID-19 alert level 3 as problematic, saying they're "bitterly disappointed" that restrictions will continue over the weekend.

It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Auckland will remain in COVID-19 alert level 3 until 11.59pm on Sunday, August 30, when it will move to alert level 2 along with the rest of the country.

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas, said as initial indications were for 12 days in alert level 3, most businesses expected restrictions to ease earlier.

"We're bitterly disappointed that we will have another four days, including a weekend, under alert level 3. The most impacted businesses are retail and hospitality: for them, weekends are when they do the most trade," Knoff-Thomas said.

The second round of alert level 3 has seen Newmarket trade drop around 65 percent. Businesses had health and safety measures in place, but for some, lack of foot traffic didn't make opening worthwhile.

"There have been flurries of activity for the coffee crowds on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but little more than that. Grocery retail, which boomed during the first lockdown, hasn’t seen the same levels of trade either," Knoff-Thomas added.

"This extension may well be the last straw."

On Auckland's North Shore, Terence Harpur, chief executive of Takapuna Beach Business Association, said although alert level 2 is welcome, local businesses would continue to suffer "significant losses" as people work from home.

"Level 2 restrictions will still cause businesses to operate at a significantly reduced capacity, causing further losses and possible closure," he said.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois, said although COVID-19 community cases were epidemiologically linked to the existing Auckland cluster, hospitality businesses outside of Auckland still paid the price.  

"The majority of our industry is made up of small businesses that cannot sustain these ongoing closures and restrictions," she said. 

An earlier survey indicated between 10 and 12 percent of hospitality businesses were facing closure.

"There will be at least 10 percent of our industry closed which translates to around 13,000 jobs if these restrictions continue," Bidois added.

ASB's latest economic report shows that compared to a fortnight ago, at the end of last week cardholders' average spend was down 16 percent.

Suggestions to increase confidence and safety for businesses and customers were to make face covering in public, and use of the COVID-19 Tracer app mandatory, and encourage respect for social distancing. Businesses would need to uphold a strict cleaning regime.

"If we can get those things right, we may be able to get back to business, and for those that have survived, claw their way back up again," Knoff-Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Kiwis could do their bit to support local businesses on the brink of closure.

"Get takeaways, purchase that new coat and/or flowers for your loved one," Harpur suggested.