Owner operated businesses in the tourism, hospitality and events industries who joined me at a meeting arranged by Ian and Jill Cammell of Taxicat Adventures in Taupo, say they are at their wits end under red traffic-light restrictions and the lack of tourists.
With the borders still largely closed and locals staying at home, almost all of them have reported loss in customers and sales. Some fear they will no longer be in operation come to the end of this month.
Under the current Phase 2 of the red traffic light systems, people who come into close contact with COVID positive cases have to isolate for 8 days and return a negative test before they can return to work.
This has seen custom to many businesses drop significantly as people stay home to avoid a scenario where they may need to self-isolate.
To make matters worse, while most businesses can continue to operate under the current traffic light system, the shortage of, or inaccessibility to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) has also seen some businesses whose staff can return to work, not being able to.
Other businesses report being denied an exemption under the Close Contact Exemption Scheme, as they weren’t deemed ‘critical’ businesses.
Concern was raised that businesses are at the mercy of bureaucrats who decides their and their workers’ fate.
Add to that an increase across the board to the cost of living, rents and fuel, and the little income some people still have is spent on simply surviving day by day and there is nothing to pump back into businesses to help them stay afloat.
There is a real risk of a whole generation of families in my Taupo electorate being consigned to a life of poverty and hardship, and accessing benefits will be their only option soon if they cannot secure further support from the Government for their businesses.
The latest Salvation Army State of the Nation report revealed around 209,000 children already living in benefit dependent homes. That's nearly 1 in 5 children since Labour took office four years ago.
I was really disappointed to learn of the cancellation of major events such as Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Ironman too.
Hayden Dickason, Event Director of Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Wayne Reardon, Race Director of Ironman say the decision to cancel their event was made with regret.
However, under current traffic light systems, it would have been near impossible to host an event that met those stringent requirements.
For others like Bevan Thompson of Bevanz Event Services, the lack of support for events under 5000, especially sports events are seeing their incomes decimated.
While there is support for arts and culture events, there is nothing for sports events with less than 5000 participants. As Bevan says ‘absolutely no support from the government, yet they are determining my work and income with gathering size restrictions.’
Our businesses and their employees need help now.
Lack of income and people forced out of work and unable to access a RAT to return is seeing a real crisis unfolding in my Taupo electorate.
Some are calling for a citizen-initiated referendum on some of the decisions the Government is making.
I've written to the Minister of Tourism, calling on him to urgently act. We need to be targetting financial support to small business owners in my community and we need it urgently.
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