Coronavirus: Whakatane facing second economic downfall after White Island eruption

Getting back to business after the COVID-19 lockdown will be more of a challenge for some regions. 

Whakatane businesses were just starting to get back on their feet after the Whakaari White Island eruption last year, and now they're now facing a double whammy of disasters. 

The White Island tragedy in December saw Mick Goodin's fishing charter business struggle. 

The local iwi Ngati Awa put a rahui on the water, stopping him from taking tourists out to sea. 

"We were all locked down similar to what we have been now," he says.

But getting back out on the water didn't last long.

"We've almost had the same loss of days that we had with COVID-19 as we did with through White Island." 

Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner says the town was "disadvantaged" because of the eruption, so the pandemic is "another very big layer".

"Your retailers, your accommodation, your eateries that rely on visitor spend all get hit pretty hard as well."

Businesses are certainly feeling the pinch on round two.

Local restaurant The Office Bar and Grill owner Reece says it's been financially tight, but he's hoping Kiwis visit when the alert levels allow it.

"We've got no cases, so they might feel a little bit more comfortable having a holiday down here," he says.

Renovations are already underway and more could come.

"We've applied for $145 million worth of projects," Turner says.

Those shovel-ready projects include a refurbishment of the Civic Centre, cycleways and roads. But it's waiting to hear if the Government will fund them.

The chances are decent, given regional development is high on the criteria checklist.

"They want projects from around New Zealand and they want them to encourage everyone in the regions to put forward their best projects," Crown Infrastructure Partners chairperson Mark Binns says.

And people are submitting their best - more than 2000 projects have been put up for Government consideration.

With Whakatane's projects among them, it's preparing to float its second attempt at an economic recovery.