Coronavirus: 89 pct of Christchurch businesses say red traffic light setting negatively impacting trade

Christchurch business owners say the red light traffic system is overwhelmingly negatively affecting business and mental health is at an all-time low.

A survey found over 90 percent of business owners had a slump in customer numbers under the red traffic light, which is as hard as alert level 3 because there's no government support.

Some central Christchurch businesses are hitting new lows under red.

"It's as bad as level 3 in the old systems, but without the government subsidies," says Mike Perkasky of Riverside Market.

Business owners say the red traffic light system has decimated their income - some are over 40 percent down.

"We've just noticed a huge decline. Ever since the red light started there's been a massive decline," Perkasky says.

Under the red traffic light, many corporations are encouraged to work from home and many are.

"As soon as the announcement hit, it's like the air was sucked out," says Annabel Turley from the Central City Business Association.

While a handful of central businesses have already closed for good under red, the latest survey of Christchurch business owners found the red light framework's impact has been profound.

Of those who responded:

  • 89 percent say it's had a negative impact on business and trade
  • 92 percent say it's had a negative impact on visitors to their shop or business
  • 79 percent are worried about either their own mental health and that of their staff.

On top of this, businesses are facing future staff issues with isolation rules.

"I think a lot of businesses and staff see no light at the end of the tunnel," Turley says.

And of course it's not just Christchurch. The latest EFTPOS spending data also paints a grim picture, with cafes and restaurants being the hardest hit. In the last week of January transaction figures in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch are all down around 30 percent.

This is all expected to get worse as Omicron becomes more widespread.

The business community is calling for more Government support.

"This reinforces the need for the government to be looking at financial targeted support for those sectors most impacted, like hospitality providers. Our bars and our restaurants are really struggling," says Leann Watson from the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce.

Perkasky is worried about how many more businesses could shut under red.

"I already know of two that have shut up shop since the red light system came in and I think there's many more that could go that way if we don't get some government subsidies sometime soon, it's looking pretty dire," he says.