Aucklanders are being 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.
The scheme, launched today by the Government and Auckland Council, is akin to Covid economic recovery schemes adopted around the world, such as Boris Johnson's "Eat Out to Help Out" in the United Kingdom that provided more than 100 million meals.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the package at Auckland Zoo today. The city had faced more than 100 days of lockdown and businesses and families had borne the brunt of the restrictions, she said.
Since working on the new traffic light system, it would start to look somewhat normal during Covid-19 times.
But officials remained aware that safety measures needed to be put in place.
On today's $37 million Auckland package, she described it as a "win-win" to support businesses.
A voucher and discount scheme will let families register the possibility of receiving discounts or vouchers to use at various attractions around Auckland.
"That would enable families ... to come to the zoo for free."
Ardern said the package would help to "bring life" back to those places and attractions in the region.
Ardern said they hoped the scheme would reach people from around Auckland.
Up to 350,000 people would benefit from the voucher scheme. The allocation process would take into account postcodes.
Auckland Council attractions such as the zoo, swimming pools, museums and galleries, may be part of the scheme. Other activities may range from outdoor adventure to tech exploration spaces.
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.
A second fund in today's package would help local businesses.
"We know there are those who at Christmas time have a tough time as it is without having come through a period of restriction of Covid-19," Ardern said.
They included people on low incomes.
She wanted to make sure organisations who helped those families also received help during the holiday period.
A transition payment was also about supporting businesses through this next part of our response.
"Our goal has been to provide directly to businesses."
Asked about Chris Luxon, Ardern acknowledged this would be the fifth National Party leader she had faced.
"I've never particularly done things differently dependent [on the leader]. And that's probably a good thing given there have been five."
'Auckland Business Chamber pleased with the scheme
Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett said it is a "great initiative" to encourage Aucklanders back into the city.
"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," he said.
Barnett encouraged businesses to use their "imagination and creativity" when it comes to making the scheme work.
However, he did acknowledge the scene was "not perfect" as it did not include the hospitality industry.
"Hospitality is not included so it is up to businesses to seize the day and play their part in reactivating the city."
Auckland restaurants 'gutted' at lack of inclusion
The Restaurant Association says its members are gobsmacked at being left out of a voucher scheme announced by the Government today to "reactivate" Auckland.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois expressed disappointment on behalf of the industry that hospitality is not included.
"We are deeply disappointed that hospitality has been forgotten in this package, considering we have been advocating for something like this for our sector for well over two months. So, the industry is gutted … there's no other word for it," she told the Herald.
"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 would love to know why restaurants weren't included in the scheme.
"It's not through lack of engagement. They have taken an idea that we had on the table and essentially left out the key ingredient which was hospitality. So we are very keen to get some answers.
"I heard the PM say in her standup that there were mixed results from these schemes throughout the world, but that's certainly not the feedback we have received from our industry where these schemes have taken place. It's been largely positive.
"Our phone has been going nuts since this announcement came out so we've had lots of communications for members just feeling forgotten. The industry is just feeling left out of some of those targeted assistance packages when we have from the very start said this is what the industry needs."
'Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this summer'
The peak of the lockdown was estimated to have cost the country $1.5 billion a week, and at level 3 it was costing about $440 million a week.
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.
Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the funding would encourage whānau to re-engage with the city, and also help out those in real hardship.
"There will be 100,000 vouchers available for families and individuals as well as discounts or free access to Auckland Council facilities to help get Aucklanders out and experience the city while providing much needed foot traffic in the CBD."
The Prime Minister is visiting Auckland today on another whistle-stop visit amid concerns about roadblocks stopping unvaccinated people from visiting Northland.
Ardern is in Auckland today for the third time since the lockdown began to meet healthcare workers, hospitality businesses and community care workers.
The visit comes as there are growing calls from Northland iwi for the Prime Minister to change the rules so only double -vaccinated people are allowed into the region until its vaccinated population hits 90 per cent for both Maori and non-Maori.
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder Hone Harawira said they only wanted fully vaccinated people to be allowed in Northland until 90 per cent of both the general and Maori population were fully vaccinated.
They had reached a level where there was now a general call from all of the iwi and all of the local district health boards for this, he said.
"This is huge, this is the level of concern across the district, he told The AM Show.
"It has come to a point where we ask everybody who isn't double vaxxed to stay home."
Those who were double vaxxed were still welcome, he said.
Harawira said they were wanting to work with police as much as possible, but they intended for there to be roadblocks checking people's vaccination status.
"I just think the Prime Minister needs to clarify this thing. Double vaxxed or a test that's recipe for disaster."
National leader Christopher Luxon said Northland Iwi threatening to cut the district off over summer was "nuts".
"It's really not acceptable ... you've got tourism and hospitality businesses that have done everything right. They're probably very safe and everyone is in good shape. We need that to be resolved and you can't have that situation for summer".
He told Newstalk ZB that the situation was symptomatic of what was going on in New Zealand at the moment, "everything is just dreamt up on the fly".
But Ardern told Radio Hauraki they are "not to stop people from being able to go where they are able and entitled to go".
The rigorousness of the border would be up to police as people travelling need to be double vaxxed or have a test within 72 hours of travelling.
"It's actually up to the police and how they ensure compliance ... there's certain places it's better to put up checks than others and there may be extra support."
Scramble for summer flights
Meanwhile, the national airline is also gearing up for a busy summer.
Air NZ chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the airline would be carrying 300,000 people around the country between December 15 and 31.
Air NZ expected December 15 - the day Auckland's border lifted - to be a busy day and there would be about 15,000 customers travelling across its network and about 9000 customers travelling in and out of Auckland.
Geraghty told The AM Show people should allow "ample time" before a flight especially with the airline's vaccine passport requirement, but there were things people could do at home to expedite the process through the airport such as downloading the Air NZ app and uploading the vaccine pass.
Air New Zealand hoped it would have the technology allowing people to upload their vaccines passes ready by December 8.