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"There is light at the end of the tunnel."
That is Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell's response to what the Prime Minister revealed life in level 3 will look like after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Tauranga business leaders agreed moving into level 3 will help "breathe some life back into the economy" and allow more people into work but warned the transition won't be simple.
New Zealand was expected to stay in alert level 4 until 11.59pm on April 22. While no decision would be made on whether we moved to level 3 next week until Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday shed some light on what level 3 would look like.
It still included major restrictions around hospitality businesses such as restaurants, bars and retail stores, but food deliveries and e-commerce could reopen, while face-to-face transactions would not be allowed.
Responding to the announcements, Powell said the Government had reached a pragmatic balance between managing Covid-19 and stimulating the economy.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel."
Powell said he was glad industries including construction and forestry would be able to operate again "but maintaining the 2m distance and keeping information for traceability is going to be really important".
He said it was important to be future-focused and agreed a gradual move back to normality was "absolutely the way to do it".
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It was crucial, Powell said, Tauranga shifted its tourism focus from attracting international visitors to looking after domestic tourists more.
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber was encouraged by the Government's medical and science-based approach, " looking after people first".
Webber said level 3 allowed some people more freedom to work, however, he felt sorry for those working in bars, cafes and restaurants.
"That's going to have a significant impact on those businesses. If we can create work for those people and tide them over with a wage until they are able to open up their bars and restaurants again, that would be something."
He was encouraged by the Government's $50 billion investment to help local economies including the Western Bay's kickstart projects and create jobs.
Being able to begin work on the Rangiuru Business Park could help create many jobs for people such as those in hospitality, he said.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said level 3 "allows us to breathe some life back into the economy" and meant big employment sectors such as construction, manufacturing and distribution businesses would all get back to work.
"That's great, but not all rosy. What we've learnt from level 4 is that the social distancing restrictions can reduce productivity significantly.
"The transition is not simple, it needs good planning and awareness of the government rules, so we urge businesses to move on that as quickly as possible."
Level 2 was where it would seem more normal.
"We need to get back there quickly so our hospitality and retail businesses can get moving."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said Covid-19 had impacted businesses differently but the "world has changed massively".
"Small businesses need to use their key strength and agility to make the most of this crisis to capture new opportunities.
"This economic reset is a once in a generation opportunity to move fast and own a new niche. So many people are starting from the same starting line, which includes people who have recently been made redundant."
To help prepare for level 3, Cowley said businesses needed to secure their supply chains, which would take time to reboot and boost local marketing to let customers know they're open.
Cowley said life in level 3 could be "huge" for the construction sector, especially sole traders who needed to complete half-finished jobs to get paid.
"We are still yet to see the impact that Covid has had on large property developers or heavy construction companies who will play a big role in the region's economic recovery."
Hospitality NZ regional manager for the Bay of Plenty, Alan Sciascia, said level 3 remained particularly difficult for hospitality businesses, which were still prevented from providing their usual customer experience.
Sciascia said it was unknown when level 3 would begin and how long it would stay but "the longer it runs the more difficult it is for businesses to survive".
"All such businesses are now surviving on what limited reserves they have. Obviously that cannot continue indefinitely."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said many tourism businesses were prepared for this time of year to be quieter.
However, she said spend patterns for the week ending April 5 showed the lockdown's impact on the local economy, with a 53 per cent downturn in spend compared with the same week in 2019.
"Tourism Bay of Plenty is considering the reset of tourism and how to make it more resilient, more collaborative and more regenerative for our people and place.
"We intend to work closely with industry on this and have specialist product development resources to focus on capability and capacity building and investment attraction, including a special focus on Māori Economic Development."
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said it was good news for the economy and consumers that more retailing would be permitted in level 3.
"The retail sector is focused on domestic consumption and can play a key role in helping reboot the New Zealand economy.
"Online trading, and the provision of click and collect services are a key means by which we can start getting things going again."
Harford said retailers were now in a position to begin planning for a level 3 world, with greater clarity around what was permitted.
"Businesses will now be thinking about how to manage social distancing and hygiene requirements in workplaces, making sure they have online fulfilment organised to meet customer needs, and establishing an online presence if they don't already have one."