Auckland's CBD is slowly coming back to life as many businesses open their doors for the first time since lockdown - but owners say times are still tough.

Despite the country moving into level 1 this week people have been slow to return to the city centre where retail spending is still down by 40 per cent.

It's suspected that's partially due to the lack of tourists and international students - and the fact many people still appear to be working from home.

NZTA says traffic levels are back to about 85 per cent of what they were pre-lockdown while Auckland Transport says public transport patronage is down by 40 per cent.


As a result the city streets are looking empty at a time when retailers desperately need sales.

Heart of the City's chief executive Viv Beck said the inner-city streets were markedly quieter than pre-Covid days.

"While it's only been two days of level 1, overall foot traffic is down 40 per cent and spending is down 40 per cent overall.

"When you've normally got an inner-city workforce in excess of 138,000 people, coupled with international tourists, that's a major change in customers."

Queen St in central Auckland is still recovering from Covid-19. Photo / Dean Purcell
Queen St in central Auckland is still recovering from Covid-19. Photo / Dean Purcell

KiwiSaver provider AMP to ditch offices in Auckland and Wellington CBDs
Premium - AMP's CBD exit: Will more Kiwis work from home or return to the office?
Covid 19 coronavirus: More than 6000 businesses at risk of closing - report
Covid 19 coronavirus: Lockdown pulls retail spend to record-low territory
Covid 19 coronavirus: Retail workers punched, spat at, abused as frustrations boil over
Under-pressure retail staff helped by new well-being app

As New Zealand marked 19 straight days of no new Covid-19 cases and no active cases remaining, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff encouraged people to return to the CBD, saying it was safe to do so.

"It's an incredibly challenging time for businesses across the country and Auckland's city centre is no exception."

"The lack of tourism and international students will particularly affect the CBD."


He said some of this will be offset by the evolution of the city centre into one of the country's largest residential areas – tens of thousands of people now live in the central city, shopping locally and supporting local businesses."

At midday yesterday foot traffic was light along Queen St. There were no buskers perched outside businesses performing and even the beggars had moved on.

The majority of stores were largely empty of customers, with the exception being cafes which had people coming through the doors for coffee and food.

A retail assistant told the Herald her store had had a very small number of customers this week and it was actually busier when the country moved into alert level 2.

Subscribe to Premium

Another business owner, who was surrounded by other retailers who had moved out, hoped things would improve after people get paid later this week.

Other retail workers along Queen St hoped the opening of Commercial Bay in the CBD would encourage Kiwis to hit the streets and start shopping again.


Several stores remained closed yesterday and many businesses have shut up shop for good, leaving only "for lease" signs in the windows.

Insurance company AMP was among those leaving the city centre.

Yesterday the KiwiSaver provider said it would move out of its Auckland and Wellington CBD offices.

The company occupied two and a half floors of the AMP building on the corner of Albert St and Custom St in Auckland's CBD.

Retailers are hoping to see shoppers back in stores as soon as possible. Photo / Dean Purcell
Retailers are hoping to see shoppers back in stores as soon as possible. Photo / Dean Purcell

It news followed a new report looking into the state of the retail sector that estimated around 6700 businesses were at risk of closure for the rest of 2020.

Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford said he was "deeply concerned" about the survival of some inner-city businesses as foot traffic and spending dwindles.


"During level 2, and since the move back to level 1, large numbers of Auckland CBD workers have stayed away from the city," he said.

"We're hearing a lot of concern from members about whether they will be able to stay afloat.

Just under 40 per cent of retailers are confident they will survive the current economic crisis – leaving a large number who may not stay afloat."

Harford said he hoped Aucklanders would return to the CBD and shop local.

"If customers get back into the city, not only will they have a great time, but they'll also be supporting jobs, and keeping the city vibrant."