New restrictions put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19 are hitting hard across Northland, with a number of public events already cancelled and businesses hurting from a lack of foot traffic.

All eyes will be on the Government's multibillon-dollar economic package to be announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today that will focus on keeping Kiwis at work.

The Ministry of Social Development yesterday confirmed two hardship grants have been approved in Northland so far and are urging those that need help to get in touch on the Government's helpline 0800 779 997.

In emergencies, the ministry can help with loss of livelihood where people can't work and have lost income, and provide funds for food, clothing and bedding, as well as accommodation costs if people have to move.


Tourism operators and small businesses in particular are bearing the brunt, although most remain upbeat largely due to a busy summer.

Justin Le Cheminant, co-owner of Mokaba Cafe and Riverside Cafe at the Town Basin, said he was an optimist and, until the situation with Covid-19 became worse, he would operate his businesses as usual.

"This is going to pass. We need to protect our reputation and help our customers and suppliers so that when it's over, we can forge ahead."

Le Cheminant said he bought his products such as fresh meat, vegetables, and poultry from local suppliers so the benefits were retained in the local economy.

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The owner of The Boatshed at the Town Basin, Grant Snelgar, said he had not noticed any big downturn in business so far but was bracing like any other retailer.

"We're not Queenstown, we're not Paihia where the impact is big but we'll have to deal with any impact if and when it happens. I was here during the Global Financial Crisis ... you just ride it out," he said.

But not all businesses share that view.


Rosemary Cox of Nautical Trenz, a gift shop at the Town Basin, said the last couple of days have been "terribly quiet".

"We've been affected for weeks as our suppliers are not able to get their stocks in, even their packaging that's done in China."

She was looking at cutting back trading hours.

As far as her businesses were concerned, Cox said Covid-19 could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

The Biggie Bagels Restaurant on Bank St in Whangārei has temporarily closed its doors, citing recent global developments and consistent messages that social distancing was the safest course of action.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith has urged businesses to "hang in there" until the Government's financial package announcement.

He said the package may have better options than laying off workers that could hurt in the long run.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith wants businesses to hang in there until the Government's economic package is announced. Photo / John Stone
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith wants businesses to hang in there until the Government's economic package is announced. Photo / John Stone

Northland tourism leader Jeroen Jongejans said hotels, motels, boat charters, and other similar operators were already losing money with cancellations "left, right, and centre".

He said the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Conference planned for the end of April in Tutukaka has been cancelled, costing the local economy $350,000.

"A good thing for Northland is it's all happening after summer so everyone's a bit cashed up but if it had happened after spring, a lot of people would have gone broke," the co-owner of Dive! Tutukaka said.

Jongejans said tourism operators thought the Australian market would help a bit but with visitors to New Zealand having to self isolate, things were looking tough.

To make matters worse, he said Kiwi visitors were scared and were not travelling to places. However, he urged tourism operators not to panic.

"We will get on top of this. Try to keep doing as much as you can in order to keep your systems up. It's going to be a time of turbulence."

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said her council was taking its directive from the Ministry of Health on how best to manage public gatherings and events.

The council has cancelled the hugely popular Fritter Festival planned for March 28 in Whangārei and said it was fully prepared to cancel, postpone or discontinue events should the need arise.

Mai said the council started planning for the impact of coronavirus in February and that rubbish collection, water, wastewater and roading services would continue as normal.

Kaipara mayor Jason Smith said his council was working through how best to continue operating and urged people to help each other get through the crisis.

"Look for the elderly and the vulnerable who do not have access to the internet and who may be fearful at this time and my firm belief is that Northland has good and wonderful citizens who will continue to look out for each other."

The Cabinet has agreed that gatherings of 500 or more people held outdoors or indoors should be cancelled.

For updated information on event cancellations/postponements in Northland, go to