As Northland emerges from the latest alert level 4 lockdown, the focus for businesses across our region needs to extend past the initial recovery and into building long-term economic resilience. As a region, we can all help.
For the majority of Northland businesses, the latest forced closures due to the Covid-19 Delta outbreak brought less shock and despair than lockdowns in the past; the initial sentiment was "we've been here before, we can get through this". And to a large extent, we have.
Businesses understand the protocols of level 4 and eagerly awaited reopening at level 2, where the Northland economy has previously proven its ability to bounce back.
Infometrics reveals that our gross domestic profit for the year ended June is up 6.5 per cent in comparison to 2020, highlighting how our businesses persevere and our communities push to get back to normality following lockdown disruptions.
This is even more poignant when you consider how the Northland economy has survived and even thrived when border closures have shut off our international tourism industry.
However, with additional level 2 restrictions and Auckland's extended period at alert level 4, Northland has been effectively cut off from the rest of the nation and the bounce-back seen after previous lockdowns has been delayed.
The Government's announcement of further resurgence support payments last week acknowledges the additional cashflow pressures placed on businesses as the nation adjusts to an extended period of alert level restrictions, and these payments will go some way to tiding businesses over through the short-term uncertainty.
What needs to be considered however, is when dealing with a highly infectious strain of Covid like Delta, what's our long-term plan? How do we ensure regional economic resilience past the initial recovery period? These questions take particular importance when we consider the short-notice, sharp lockdowns required to eliminate an outbreak, and the added challenge of being regionally isolated due to travel restrictions.
The answer is simple; we must support our local Tai Tokerau businesses and shop local. The suggestion to shop local has been one of common conversation over the past 18 months, but now is the time to put these words into action.
We are privileged in Northland to be surrounded by creative, energetic, enthusiastic businesses that continue to innovate and build despite the challenges lockdowns have created. So much so that one of the emerging groups seeking advice in this lockdown are regional start-ups or businesses that had seen such successful growth since the last level 4 lockdown that they now qualify for the resurgence support payment.
Previous challenges have shown the economy is able to bounce back swiftly from any changes to restrictions or other Covid-19 obstructions, and we've experienced the initial decline and then rebound spending seen following lockdowns last year.
We are now faced with the added challenge of being regionally isolated, bringing uncertainty to our Northland tourism operators. Air New Zealand's announcement of flights into Kerikeri was heartening as an effort to keep Northland connected, and the quantity of flights has already been increased to meet demand.
Our annual spend on tourism in Northland is $566 million, with around $161 million of that being spent by Northlanders travelling within our region. We know that the variety of experiences, events, restaurants and journeys that Tai Tokerau offers is second to none.
So as our doors begin to reopen, it's our local businesses and providers who we must think of and support. Stop by your local cafe for breakfast, visit your local market to purchase from small growers, attend one of our region's upcoming events.
There is still uncertainty on what life will look like over the coming months, as previous lockdowns have taught us that "normal life" can often look different and may be punctured with additional lockdowns disrupting things further. But while we can, get out and shop local to build resilience into our economy.
And while it is important to support local businesses, it is equally as essential that we support efforts to protect the health of our people against this virus. Our economic recovery is linked to our health response.
I would like to acknowledge our business community and all those who are involved in our emergency and support services. These people are helping to protect us and our economy.
We've shown before that Northland is capable of resilience, innovation and even new growth in the face of lockdowns. By supporting our regional community, we can build economic resilience and rise to the challenge once again.
Nō reira, e Te Tai Tokerau kia maia, kia manawanui. Ahakoa te taimahatanga nei o te wā, me ū tātou ki a tātou, me tautoko tātou i a tātou, hei oranga mō ngā pākihi me ngā whānau katoa o tō tātou rohe nei. Mauri ora!
• Murray Reade is chief executive of Northland Inc