Government's latest bid to gratify Auckland businesses described as 'a sick joke' as hospitality firms tip over the brink

The Government's latest bid to appease Auckland businesses when the city emerges from months of lockdown on Friday has failed to impress, particularly the on its knees hospitality industry.

On Wednesday, the Government announced it was pumping $37.5 million into activity vouchers - slashing prices for family outings.

But hotel and restaurant owners, many of which are on the brink of bankruptcy, are angry they weren't included in the plan.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White says while activity providers are stoked, it's a final blow to the food and drink sector.

"Our sector is beside themselves - I can't tell you the tears of frustrations that I received yesterday is heartbreaking," she told The AM Show on Thursday. "You've got to remember the people behind this - they've got families. These are people we're dealing with."  

White said many restaurants needed support now, or they would be bankrupt by Christmas.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday defended the decision to leave hospitality out of the Government's stimulus package. 

National Party Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay told Newshub it felt like a "sick joke". 

"It leaves many businesses disappointed," McClay said. "It's a half-baked announcement. They're channeling money towards a council zoo and their swimming pools.

"Almost every business owner I've talked to in Auckland is struggling."

But Hipkins, defending the decision, said the hospitality sector will see "a big surge" in the next few weeks.  

"I expect there will be demand for restaurants. There's a lot of people in Auckland who can't wait to get out and dine out and enjoy those freedoms again.

"If you look at what the vouchers are designed to do, they are designed to give people the confidence to get out and about and re-engage again. So getting families out doing things as families and saying to Aucklanders, 'Thanks for your hard work and thanks for staying home for that prolonged period of time, now get out and about and enjoy what Auckland has to offer.'

"Of course the hospitality sector is going to benefit from that. People are going to be out and about enjoying hospitality while they also enjoying those things they're getting passes for," Hipkins told reporters.