A Government support package which aims to revitalise Auckland by issuing families vouchers for local attractions and events has been panned by the hospitality sector, which says it's been "left to die".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that Aucklanders will be offered 100,000 vouchers this summer for a range of activities in a bid to "reactivate" the city as it shakes off the shackles of nearly four months in lockdown.
But restaurant, bars and businesses in the hospitality industry will not be included in the scheme.
Sunny Kaushal, owner of Auckland's oldest brewpub and restaurant The Shakespeare, says many local restaurants and bars are already on the brink and the announcement gives them little hope.
"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government seem happy to leave us to die."
Having lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue during lockdown, Kaushal said he was uncertain if his business would be able to make it to its 125th anniversary next year.
"The UK had Dine Out to Help Out. It reactivated hospitality and got people back into towns and cities.
"Businesses in our industry are barely surviving, many have folded, and yet with every announcement of financial help from this Government there is just nothing for us. Nothing."
The Restaurant Association said its members were gobsmacked at being left out of the voucher scheme.
"We are deeply disappointed that hospitality has been forgotten in this package," chief executive Marisa Bidois told the Herald.
"The industry is gutted ... there's no other word for it.
"We are one of the hardest-hit industries. The Government is fully aware of that. Yet time and time again we get left out ... there is a lot of disappointment in our sector."
Bidois said the industry felt left out of the Government's targeted assistance packages. It would love to know why restaurants weren't included in the scheme.
Ardern announced the package at Auckland Zoo on Wednesday. She said the city had faced more than 100 days of lockdown and businesses and families had borne the brunt of the restrictions.
Dubbed "Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this summer", the $37.5 million reactivation package includes $12m in vouchers to attractions and discounts to Auckland's council facilities, funding for events and food support.
Ardern described the package as a "win-win" to support businesses. The scheme will let families register for the possibility of receiving discounts or vouchers to use at various attractions around Auckland.
Ardern said the package would help to "bring life" back to those places and attractions and hoped the scheme would reach people from around Auckland.
Up to 350,000 people would benefit from the scheme, with the allocation process to take into account postcodes.
Auckland council attractions such as the zoo, swimming pools, museums and galleries, may be part of the scheme. Other activities could range from outdoor adventure to tech exploration spaces.
But National's economic development, small business and tourism spokesman Todd McClay described the scheme as "convoluted" and a missed opportunity to address the concerns of businesses that are hurting the most.
"For some reason the Government has decided the businesses that need help to get back on their feet, as Auckland comes out of a three month lockdown, are council-owned facilities like swimming pools and the zoo," McClay said.
"There is nothing in this package for hospitality, accommodation or tourism businesses, many of whom are on the brink of failure."
From December 15, Aucklanders can register interest for a voucher, then by mid-January Auckland Unlimited will allocate the vouchers through an online platform.
The vouchers would be available for use until April.
There was also a second fund in the package to help local businesses, but also did not target hospitality.
The Government confirmed a further $12 million in immediate funding for Auckland foodbanks and community food organisations.
Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the package which, he said, will help Aucklanders enjoy their region this summer and boost the city's economic recovery after 106 days in lockdown.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said it had been lobbying for an activation fund and hoped this scheme could deliver a much needed boost.
"However, it is disappointing that there are no specific elements to support the hospitality sector as we had proposed."
Auckland Business Chamber chief Michael Barnett said the scheme was a great initiative by the Government and Auckland Council.
"Businesses can register to be part of the Local Activation Programme to organise free events for the public and should use their imagination and creativity to make it work for them as part of their recovery after over 100 days of lockdown.
"The scheme shows that central and our local council are thinking laterally, beyond the critical resurgence, transition and wage subsidy support packages to look ahead to stimulate economic recovery and vitality in the city over summer."
However, he acknowledged the scheme was not perfect.
"Hospitality is not included so it is up to businesses to seize the day and play their part in reactivating the city."
Auckland Unlimited will administer the support package, with details of how the funding will be accessed still to be confirmed.