Auckland hospitality business owner slams 'inequity' of Govt's wage subsidy scheme under level 2, calls for 'fairness'

An Auckland hospitality business owner has slammed the "inequity" of the Government's COVID-19 Wage Subsidy scheme, saying the city's businesses aren't getting "the same luxury as the rest of the country".

Auckland is currently in alert level 4 lockdown with a decision to be made on Monday, while the rest of the country is at level 2.

While New Zealand is split, employers in level 2 regions can still apply for the wage subsidy if they can show the level 4 restrictions in Auckland are having a major impact on revenue. 

"People who are in the South Island in that level 2 environment are still eligible to apply for the wage subsidy with the usual criteria," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained

"They could get it… you do not have to be [in level 3 or 4]. If any part of the country is at level 3 or 4, someone can apply for the wage subsidy. 

"So yes, in the South Island if you still fit the criteria of having had that revenue decline, then you are eligible for the wage subsidy."

But Sam Ansley, the owner of Auckland's Everybody's and Roxy, told The AM Show on Monday the system is unfair.

"We feel there is a real inequity in the current system the Government is doing in terms of the wage subsidy rollout," he said.

"Auckland is doing it tough and we are often thanked by the Government for being all in and doing it together and doing it tough but Auckland is doing it tougher and we are more all in than anyone else. 

"At the moment, the inequity that exists is - when we are in level 3 or 4 and [staying] up most nights wondering how are we going to pay our bills, the rest of the country in level 2 gets the benefit of wages subsidies, because of the fact that we are in level 3 and 4."

He said he doesn't believe Auckland businesses will receive support at level 2 as other parts of the county are unlikely to be at a higher alert level.

"When we come out of four, five, six, eight weeks of lockdown, and have nothing left cause their cash reserves are nil and our relationship with our landlords are frayed and our suppliers are at us, we don't have the same luxury as the rest of the country of wage subsidy support," he said.

The AM Show host Ryan Bridge noted Finance Minister Grant Roberston had previously told them the Government has time to make a decision on whether to offer support.

But Ansley said it's not good enough.

"I'm not a Government hater. This isn't about left or right or politics or right or wrong, it's about fairness.

"My business employs 50 people and it contracts to another 20 or so businesses. What happens to me, what happens to my business, affects a myriad of other businesses, hundreds of other people… we need some certainty about what's going on. 

Every day, every week we wake up and wonder what's going on. So for the Government to say 'We'll find out in a couple of week's time', it's not good enough in my view."

Speaking to The AM Show after Ansley, Robertson fought back claims the Government had left businesses on the brink.

He said while he knows businesses are doing it tough, the Government's wage subsidy scheme is tried and tested.

Robertson was asked if the Government will keep Auckland at alert level 4 while there are still mystery cases in the community.

"Not necessarily," he told host Ryan Bridge. "We look very closely at each of these individual mystery cases... [those] eight [mystery cases] will have reduced down significantly just overnight, I guarantee it, because during the day yesterday there would've been conversations with those people, connections would've been made to other parts of the outbreak and they're no longer considered mystery cases."