Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk, business leaders have warned MPs, with paranoia building about who will be solvent even before the Covid-19 lockdown lifts.
On Wednesday the epidemic response select committee, a group of MPs tasked with monitoring the Government's response to the global pandemic, heard from representatives from some of New Zealand's largest industries.
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With much of the economy on lockdown, and a global recession expected, the Government is spending billions of dollars on keeping the economy intact. But the committee heard a string of warnings that wage subsidies and loans would not prevent widespread disruption.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts predicted total tourism spending will be down $2 billion a month for at least the next six months, while 100,000 jobs could be lost from an industry which sustained more than 400,000 jobs.
"Tourism is not dead, but it is in a deep slumber just now," Roberts told MPs by videolink, urging the Government not to "write off" the sector.
"New Zealand's tourism offering remains as sound as it ever was. We have the natural assets, we have quality businesses, we have very passionate tourism people, we just don't have customers."
Even within industries classed as essential, there were claims that the current restrictions would be untenable.
Nick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum said that trucking companies tended to operate on low margins anyway, but were now being hit by a significant volume of usual work being deemed "non-essential" meaning it cannot be delivered.
Leggett said about half of New Zealand's trucks were operating, but the smaller loads meant the industry was operating at 30-40 per cent capacity.
A survey of customers showed the "overwhelming majority" could not afford the current conditions to stretch out for six to eight weeks, while members were already fretting that they would not be paid for past deliveries.
"As one major operator told me yesterday, you'd be surprised at the scale and the reputation of who isn't paying already."
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns, speaking on behalf of the wider port sector said they were currently exporting large volumes of dairy products and kiwifruit. Early issues around the movement of non-essential products were resolved in the first week of the lockdown.
But Cairns said with trade affected, the port had a ship call to Tauranga with 1000 empty containers, which was inefficient and would lead to costs for exporters.
With the global shipping industry expected to lose tens of billions of dollars this year, the country could face increasing challenges.
"We have already had, in the last week, one of the larger lines threaten to stop calling [to] New Zealand. New Zealand is very small in terms of global trade so it is something the Government has to balance up."
Meat Industry Association boss Tim Ritchie said that while freezing works were operating, sheepmeat volumes were around half of what they normally are, while beef is down around 70 per cent and venison by three-quarters. This meant the entire industry was struggling.
"We're a $9.1 billion export industry and I can assure you, very clearly, that everyone is sharing the pain."
Former BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly, said while he believed the business community supported the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19, they saw good public health and good economic health as "two sides of the same coin".
A prolonged shutdown would cause lasting damage, so the Government should quickly review what was classed as an "essential" business.
"If a business can demonstrate good compliance with public health standards, social distancing and so on then, in principle, it should be able to open, or open in part."
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said farming was "ticking along" and it was pleasing to see the sector was being given recognition as both an export earner and a secure source of food.
But Milne warned that farm supplies were being disrupted in freight and product prices were falling and were expected to fall further. Preparations for winter were also being impacted by slower meat processing at a time of drought, meaning many farms were looking to reduce stock numbers.
"Farming is a biological system and winter is coming," Milne said. "We have to be able to continue on with some of the work streams so we're prepared for winter, with no bad animal welfare outcomes."
Afterwards, National leader Simon Bridges said he supported moves to allow more businesses to operate if they could prove they took measures to reduce the risk of infection. As the committee had heard, a severe impact on the economy was likely to have a lasting impact on New Zealand's health.
"Business people are sitting there really desperate to get back to work. If they can satisfy the Government that the risks are accounted for … I think we should be looking really closely at how we allow that to happen."