A ban on cruise ships visiting New Zealand ports for the rest of the season is expected to wipe $5 million from the Bay of Islands economy.
The ban — announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus in New Zealand — will hit hardest in Paihia but its effects will ripple through Northland, especially with the number of tourists arriving by air also expected to plummet.
There is as yet no estimate of how many jobs could be lost.
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Irwin Wilson, cruise ship co-ordinator for port authority Far North Holdings, said the premature end of the cruise ship season would have a ''huge impact''.
''We've been fortunate we're so far through the season. Had this happened earlier, the consequences would have been quite horrific,'' he said.
Even when cruise ships were cleared to return there was no guarantee the industry would pick up where it left off.
''The real questions we need to start thinking about are, when will cruise ships start returning, and in what sort of numbers?''
''There will be a considerable amount of pain within the community with the lost income from the ships, and where we go after June 30 [when the ban is due to end] is still uncertain.
''At the moment we're in a wait and see position. We just have to see what the world does around us, unfortunately,'' he said.
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Cruise NZ had estimated the industry had injected $21m into the Bay of Islands in 2018-19, a figure which had been expected to climb by about 20 per cent this season.
With 19 ships and 40,000 passengers no longer calling in, about a quarter of the total, that meant the Bay of Islands would miss out on about $5m.
A few days ago Business Paihia chairwoman Robyn Stent was upbeat, with the town benefiting from extra ships diverted from around the Pacific.
Saturday's announcement, combined with an expected drop in all international visitors, has changed that.
''Most of our business comes from foreign tourists and they're gone. It's not only cruise ships, we expect to lose visitors across the board. There's still a few visitors now but this week we'll see the last run-down as they wait for their planes, then we'll be in midwinter mode.''
Businesses had lost the last six weeks of the high season, which they relied on to get them through the lean winter months.
''Everybody will be looking at their budgets, their staffing, and ways to mitigate this,'' Stent said.
She was keen to start a forum where business owners could talk and get help with budgeting.
''We'll be focusing on what we can do to help our businesses. That's all we can do.''
Far North Mayor John Carter said a special meeting had been called this afternoon to discuss Covid-19 and its financial implications.
In recent days he had rung all tourism and business associations around the Far North to find out how they were affected.
That information would be taken into consideration by the council and used to inform central government.
Retailers were also losing out because they were unable to get stock from China.
''I am concerned for our district, and for our nation. It's likely to be challenging,'' Carter said. ''But we expect the community, just as they have with the drought, to use their common sense and join together.''
A record 74 cruise ships had been expected to call in to the Bay of Islands in the 2019-20 season, with five of those adding Northland to their itineraries after ports in the Pacific were closed earlier this month.
On Saturday, when cruise ship visits were halted, Ovation of the Seas was already on its way to Paihia with 4180 passengers on board when it had to turn around and return to Sydney.
Princess Cruises had already suspended its sailings after some of its vessels were affected by Covid-19.
The Diamond Princess was quarantined in Japan last month after an outbreak affected more than 700 passengers and crew. The Golden Princess had been held off the coast of Akaroa after a passenger developed symptoms of Covid-19 but test results came back negative yesterday.