Support offered to Gisborne employers, workers as coronavirus hits local economy

A series of community meetings will be held in the Gisborne region for workers and employers feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The Forest Industry Contractors Association estimates about 30 percent of the country's logging crews were unable to work due to supply chain disruption in China, meaning nationwide up to 1500 forestry workers were out of work.

The East Coast has been hit hard as the economy is very reliant on forestry, and about 90 percent of the volume of logs from Gisborne usually go to China.

The new Regional Leaders Governance group met on Thursday to discuss the effects so far and how key agencies could work together to support those affected.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz was appointed regional spokesperson for the group.

"We are closely involved in monitoring this situation and responding in practical ways to support our people," she says.

"This is having a big impact on our region - particularly in the forestry and fisheries industries at the moment. We encourage anyone who is feeling the impact of this to reach out for help."

The governance group included Gisborne District Council, Eastland Port, Eastland Group, Eastland Wood Council, Ministry for Social Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, Trust Tairāwhiti and Ministry for Primary Industries.

Trust Tairāwhiti was also hosting a meeting with business owners and contractors on Friday to discuss issues around employee wellbeing, financial support and short-term employment options.

Forestry is very important to the East Coast economy.
Forestry is very important to the East Coast economy. Photo credit: Getty

Representatives from accountancy firms, lending institutions, the health sector and IRD would also attend to provide information.

Various agencies will visit the East Coast next week for a series of rural roadshows to talk to whanau, contractors and employees about any support they may need.

The rural roadshows start on February 18 at Wharekahika and Tikitiki, before moving to Ruatoria and Tokomaru Bay on February 19.

Stoltz says it's crucial East Coast communities get support and information during this time.

"People north of Uawa are likely to feel the effects of this for longer. We are collecting data relevant to Tairāwhiti to provide back to central Government and give a clear message we need more support for our region."

The Regional Leaders Governance group will meet again next week and provide an update to the community.