AS Southland emerges from the restrictions of Alert Level 4, there is a feeling of optimism as many businesses return to work.
The cost to businesses in Southland was yet to be determined, however indications were if everyone complied with Government regulations, and if New Zealand could return to Level 2 quickly, the impact on the economy in the south might be minimal.
Co-ordinating the region’s business and economic response to Covid-19, Great South had conducted a survey with about 700 Southland businesses.
“Not surprisingly, the biggest impact and most concerns came out from the tourism, food and hospitality sector,” Great South chief executive Graham Budd said.
From the data collected, Great South found 61% of the business owners surveyed were either extremely, or very, concerned about their future; 31% were somewhat concerned and 9% were neutral or not concerned.
The biggest impact was on cashflow, Mr Budd said.
About 71% of businesses had a drop in income of more than 30%, while 14% had experienced no change in their business.
“It is clear many businesses are facing hardship. We don’t know how many have actually closed their doors. But we believe it is actually less than 1% so far.”
He said a positive sign was that 90% of the businesses believed they would be able to survive for more than three months if they maintained their revenue levels from before the lockdown.
However, about 10% feared they would not be able to last longer than a month.
“As we are entering Level 3… some businesses can start to trade again, so this number can change,” Mr Budd said.
“We have quite a lot of businesses which feel they will be working through this. This is encouraging.”
Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters manager Graeme Wright said staff safety concerns had led to processing delays before the company reopened last Monday.
It had now started to supply supermarket chains and some fish outlets throughout New Zealand.
“The safety of our staff is our priority, so only half of the team is working each day”.
He said the company had been registered as an essential service and was allowed to process oysters under Alert Level 4.
“I think we are operating at about 20% of our capacity.”
Mr Wright hoped the number of businesses wanting oysters would increase this week with the country moving to Alert Level 3.
Invercargill’s streets were noticeably busier as people began life under Alert Level 3 on Tuesday.
More people were seen walking around the inner city and there was a significant increase of vehicles on roads.
The lift of some restrictions also brought the opportunity for people to begin to return to old habits; Invercargill residents Bill Robertson and Grace Thompson were happy to be able to buy a coffee from their regular cafe, Meccaspresso in the CBD.
The pair said they were happy to be able to be back at what they considered the “best shop in town”.
Construction workers were also able to return to work.
Des Hogan, who was a sub-contractor working on the Langlands Hotel site, said it was good to be working again.
“It’s quite stimulating to be honest. We’ve had to take a step back and prioritise things; health is much more important than concrete.”
He said there was a sense of camaraderie among the construction workers on site.
Mr Budd said Great South was encouraging communities across the region to embrace the opportunity to help each other.
“The region is home to some incredible and hardworking businesses, it’s now time for Southland to come together to celebrate them and show our support after what has been a challenging lockdown period,” he said.
Mr Budd said Southland’s sense of community provided a strong foundation for the campaign and for the region’s economic restart.
“Together, we have an opportunity to rally around our local businesses and pave the way for a greater future for them and our region.
“If there’s a choice, let’s focus on them first, from buying a takeaway coffee or meal to getting some DIY materials for those jobs around the house, look to our local suppliers where we can, and support the heart of our region’s economy.”