The Auckland effect: Majority of NZ hospitality businesses report significantly reduced income during lockdown

A new survey shows the majority of hospitality businesses around the country have suffered from Auckland's recent two-week lockdown. 

Auckland went into alert level 3 on August 12 after a re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community. 

The lockdown saw all non-essential businesses forced to close their premises. This had a huge impact on hospitality businesses which were forced to rely on contact-free services like takeaways. Aucklanders were also barred from travelling outside the city, except for certain exemptions. 

While the rest of the country was only in level 2, the impact from Auckland's lockdown was felt widely. 

A survey from the Restaurant Association shows 64 percent of all hospitality businesses across the country reported significantly reduced income in August when compared with July and 68 percent reported reduced income compared to the same period in 2019.

The losses in Auckland were even worse with 90 percent reporting significantly reduced income in August compared with July and 96 percent when compared to the same period in 2019. 

To make matters worse, only two-thirds of all businesses in Auckland said they were able to open for takeaway. 

The survey highlights the role Aucklanders play in terms of domestic spending across New Zealand. 

"These figures are highly distressing," says Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois. "The overwhelming feedback from members is that they are worried for the survival of their businesses."

Bidois said the industry is calling on the Government for help, suggesting a range of initiatives like a subsidized dining scheme, GST cuts on food and government support on commercial lease agreements.

"So many other industries have received targeted support and subsidies so we're at a loss as to why we are being continually overlooked," she said 

"The Government's stance on the wage subsidy being a catch-all is frustrating, to say the least, and demonstrates the lack of understanding and empathy they have to the plight of hospitality business owners who through no fault of their own have been given a dire set of circumstances to operate under. We're frankly tiring of all of the excuses."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlighted the Government's support options on the AM Show on Monday, saying the wage subsidy is available to businesses across the country. 

"You will remember the wage subsidy and extensions apply for the whole country, so it hasn't been Auckland specific. We are taking into account the impact that not having Auckland moving around has on everyone."

"Relative to other countries we have managed to cushion the blow on our unemployment levels and that has been because of all those measures we have taken to support small businesses," she said. 

The wage subsidy extension isn't the only support available to businesses with the  COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme, Small Business Cashflow Scheme, and the COVID Income Relief Payment all also available. 

Ardern also acknowledged the sacrifices that Kiwis have had to make during the recent lockdown. 

"I know what New Zealanders are sacrificing, I know what they're giving up, I know what Aucklanders have had to do over the last couple of weeks and I know it has been hard."

On Monday morning Auckland moved to a modified version of level 2, dubbed level 2.5. 

Despite the shift in levels, Aucklanders are still facing greater restrictions with gatherings capped at 10 people and authorised funerals and tangihanga at 50. Read a full list of the rules here

Masks are also mandatory on public transport across the country for everyone over 12 years old from Monday.