At the time you are reading this, we are in Alert Level 1 and most of us have returned to our 'new normal' with some just starting their recovery journey.
I am so proud of the collective efforts of all New Zealanders including yours to get through to this point and applaud you for your efforts and sacrifices made!
We've come through this together even if it seemed such a challenge when it all started and the focus now needs to be on ensuring we all thrive again. While this will certainly open up more of our economy, we know the impact of COVID-19 will be on-going for many businesses in our local economy.
There are just 100 days to go before Kiwis decide who will lead them through the COVID recovery and back into economic prosperity and social wellbeing.
As the first round of the Wage Subsidy comes to an end, we know many businesses will be making decisions around the shape of their organisations and what the future landscape looks like.
Now more than ever, we want to ensure that businesses are reaching out and getting the right advice and accessing the Government business support packages available.
I'm keen to visit your business or community group and hear about your experiences and where you need any assistance. If you'd like me to come along please give my office a ring to hear about potential dates I could visit.
My offices have reopened too and my team and I are hoping to see you soon. I'm looking forward to meeting up face to face again and will be hosting Friendly Forums in June, July and August, details further down.
On the road to recovery
The economic devastation of COVID-19, especially to small businesses as a result of the near-immediate revenue streams shut off during lockdown is something we have not seen in generations of small businesses, many family-owned. Certain sectors like the tourism industry are still in a holding pattern with the international borders closed.
We need to focus on how best to support our small businesses and the tourism industry to get back on their feet to help communities prosper again where people have either lost their jobs or had their incomes reduced as a result of COVID-19.
National's Tourism Accelerator grant programme and JobStarts initiatives aim to do just that. I look forward to sharing further details of these two programmes and our other initiatives with you over the coming months.
Tourism Accelerator Grant Programme
National will launch a $100 million grant programme called Tourism Accelerator to help fund projects that will get New Zealand’s tourism sector back on its feet. Our country is a premier tourism destination and the lack of revenue from international tourists are hurting our tourism industry. National’s Tourism Accelerator will provide direct cash support to businesses and tourism operators that are currently tossing up whether to re-open or shut up shop for good.
Our small businesses need support to invest and grow. National's Jobstart programme will provide a $10,000 cash payment to businesses for all additional new employees. It takes a real commitment to take on a new, permanent employee in the current economic climate and this payment is only a partial offset of the cost of that new labour for any business.
It will consist of a $10,000 per new hire be paid to all businesses that employ a person on a fulltime, permanent basis where they can prove that the new hire is an additional Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) over and above their existing labour force. As an emergency programme, JobStart will begin on 1 November 2020 and run for five months through to the end of the financial year, 31 March 2021.
Post-Budget and Community Engagement meetings
During the past few weeks, I’ve co-hosted virtual post-budget meetings with The Cambridge Chambers of Commerce, Enterprise Great Lake Taupo and SWIFT in South Waikato and held virtual community meetings well attended by a cross-section of business owners and locals employed in the forestry, tourism, hospitality, retail and accounting industries amongst others.
I’ve had also many conversations during my road trip down to Parliament over the past couple of months too with local café owners, accommodation providers and event managers who revealed concerns that when the wage subsidies expire and while the borders are still closed, more businesses will be forced to reduce their staff due to the lack of revenue streams.
Some of the feedback at these meetings included concerns about lack of standardised qualifications in place for services being offered, multi-nationals moving into the Waikato but without jobs and suggestions of GST bonuses to businesses.
A major concern raised too has been the effects on the events management industry which is closely linked to tourism. Cambridge will feel the impact of not having Fieldays this month.
In South Waikato, the general sense at our meetings was that people were cautious about life after wage subsidies and all agreed that redundancies will be great when the subsidies came to an end. Exasperating the situation in our South Waikato region has been the huge amount of people who did not have access to a landline or internet services, resulting in a feeling of regional disconnectedness.
Iwi also reported a disconnect with Civil Defence structures, with a strong desire for local partnerships to be formed to help with recovery identified. Others reported concerns with legislation being pushed through under urgency but with little or no consideration of the effects on local populations.
Business confidence is imperative for domestic economic recovery. While economists are predicting a tough future for regional economies such as ours, whatever the outcome of changes to alert levels, the focus immediately forward must be on helping small businesses get back up and running again, so that they can thrive instead of just survive the coming months as they are the lifeline of our local communities and families.
- South Waikato - 19 June 2020, 10am. The Plaza, 50 Kensington Street, Putaruru
- Taupo - 24 July 2020, 10am. Waiora House, 129 Spa Road
- Cambridge - 31 July 2020, 10am. Cambridge Health and Community Centre, Taylor Street
- Turangi - 7 August 2020, 10am. Boardroom, Taupo District Council, 3 Turangi Town Centre
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