Hundreds of distressed hospitality and tourism businesses are pleading for help from Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye who fears the city centre's future is in peril.
"Auckland's centre is going to be a graveyard. It's bloody carnage out there," Kaye said of fears for commercial survival of CBD businesses.
"Hundreds of people have been in touch in the last few weeks," she said, citing restaurants, bars, entertainment hubs and events-based businesses catering to the tourism sector.
Four days ago, she launched the petition Save Auckland Small Businesses on www.change.org, saying so many people were now struggling to pay the bills and would either fail or are significantly at risk of closing their doors.
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But a significant package of tax reforms was to be pushed through all stages in Parliament today to throw a cash flow lifeline to small businesses.
Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said the Covid-19 Response (Taxation and other Regulatory Urgent Measures) Bill would give businesses more than $3 billion in tax refunds as they dealt with the economic impact of the virus.
"This response delivers the single biggest Government support package to businesses via the tax system in modern New Zealand history, and more is yet to come," Nash announced today.
"As the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have said we are constantly monitoring the situation for business and adjusting our support as required. Just yesterday we indicated additional support will be coming for commercial leases.
"We will keep supporting business and jobs where we can to cushion the blow of the virus and ensure New Zealand is well positioned for recovery," Nash said.
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The changes meant cash could start flowing to business as early as next week and the many small and medium enterprises now feeling pain would get relief.
Kaye said her petition so far has 1000 signatures, with one supporter saying it was about time the Government was made to realise the scale of what was happening.
She was fully aware of the brutal reality for so many in her electorate and was doing all she could to help.
"The reality is the issues Auckland central businesses are facing are the same issues that many businesses across New Zealand are facing," Kaye said.
Auckland central has the largest number of businesses in the country with more than 10,000 businesses, she said.
"A large number have significant challenges under level 4 and level 3. We are all concerned about the impact of restrictions at level 2. Hospitality, retail and tourism related businesses are hugely impacted," she said.
Although some food businesses were now able to sell takeaways, for many businesses that action under level 3 would not be enough revenue.
"The wage subsidy has helped but it is not enough for many businesses. There is SME tax relief but many businesses need more support to make it through. We will see them fall over and thousands of jobs will be lost unless the Government and Auckland Council can do more," she said.
Rent subsidies from the Government and council rates relief were desperately needed, she said.
"Our businesses need the Government to step up and deliver a commercial rental subsidy. We need the council to provide rates relief for struggling businesses as well," Kaye said, pleading for people to sign the petition.
Viv Beck, Heart of the City chief executive, backed Kaye.
"One of the biggest issues that has been raised during the lockdown is cashflow – cash in the hands of businesses that desperately need money to pay for fixed costs like rent. City centre spending, on average $5m/day, has plummeted which shows explicitly how much money business is losing. It's really concerning that this is taking so long to resolve," Beck said.
The needs of tenants and landlords must be considered to ensure the CBD economy had a strong foundation to build from, Beck said.
"We believe this needs Government action urgently as there is a major issue for tenants who can't afford to pay their rent and also for landlords if rents are not paid. It is not fair to expect either tenants or landlords to bear the brunt of a government-imposed lock down," she said.
Not giving businesses direct financial support now when they need it most will have significant consequences. Allowing a large number of businesses to fail will take a major toll on the success and vitality of the city centre, she said.
Andrew Little, Justice Minister, yesterday said the Government was considering some form of rent support for businesses.
"So, to add to the wage subsidy and other support in place, Cabinet Economic Development Committee ministers discussed options around changing the Property Law Act to support New Zealand businesses in managing their rent," Little said yesterday.
His statements were welcomed by Property Council chief executive Leonie Freeman and former BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly, but landlord Rolf Masfen of Masfen Group said negotiation could take place between building owners and tenants to reach solutions.
The Herald reported yesterday how about 160 staff from Farmers, Whitcoulls and Pascoes retail chains face redundancy as the lockdown from Covid-19 bites.
Most job losses are expected to affect staff from Farmers' head office in New Zealand.
The mid-market department store owners Anne and David Norman of the James Pascoe Group sent a letter yesterday to staff across all chains, outlining the private company's plans to reduce wages by up to 40 per cent as long as its stores cannot open its doors.
The pair said the reduced turnover from store closures would result in "saying goodbye to a number of team members".
Precinct Properties has been unable to open its $1 billion PwC Tower at Commercial Bay, with dozens of new stores and the vast new Harbour Eats. Retail there was due to open last month and this month, 3200 office workers were due to begin moving into the tower.