Northland leaders are backing a new campaign to boost the region's economy following nearly five weeks of strict lockdown restrictions which have damaged local businesses.
NZME's Go Local! campaign, launched today, will see our teams working hard to get our communities back on their feet again.
Over the coming weeks the Northern Advocate will promote local business success stories, highlighting interesting initiatives and providing useful tips to help revitalise the local economy.
NZME general manager for Northland Greg Alexander says it is now more important than ever to help Northlanders get back to business.
"We totally understand Covid-19 has significantly impacted on many local businesses, as we have experienced, and know many are doing it tough.
"As we move through the levels, we need to ensure we are encouraging people to shop local and support our local businesses."
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was expecting 400,000 people to return to work yesterday, under slightly loosened level 3 restrictions to open up the economy.
The country will stay at level 3 for at least another two weeks, before the Government decides if it can move to level 2.
Ardern encouraged people wanting to participate in "contactless retail" to shop local.
"Think about our local businesses, they need our support," she said.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Steve Smith said buying local was an important part of community wealth building.
"Currency is an exchange of value; the longer you can retain the value chain within the community, the more the community as a whole can benefit from it."
Smith's message to residents in a position to spend is to "just get out there and do it".
"If you've got a bucket list just get on with it. If there are things you want to do, painting your house or anything that's important to you, then reprioritise and do it."
Northland Inc chief executive Murray Reade "completely" supported the campaign.
"Supporting local businesses is certainly the way to move forward. There's the importance of stimulating the economy, and in level 3 there's still a limited amount of activity that can occur.
"As soon as we can, get out and start engaging with the community and the businesses. We want to see local businesses survive, particularly now."
Northland Inc has set up a business support helpline to ensure businesses receive practical advice and support as they tackle the impacts of Covid-19.
So far, more than 250 Northland businesses have received help by phoning 0800 525 001.
The calls are from a wide range of sectors, including tourism, food and beverage, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.
Key concerns have been raised by business owners including business continuity, wage and leave subsidy advice, business cash flow and tax relief, and health and wellbeing.
Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai said it was "critical" to support local businesses.
When shopping online residents should consider buying Northland or New Zealand made, instead of spending with overseas companies.
"If residents have an option to buy local that's what you should use. Just think really carefully about how we use our money.
"We have to change our habits. The reality is there's going to be a massive dive in our economy.
"It's how long it takes to recover, that's the speculation now. What we hope is it will be faster for us if we all take part in the Go Local! campaign."
Mai said the sectors hit hardest had been tourism and hospitality and "that's where we need to get smart with our recovery packages".
"Obviously people won't be holidaying in Europe, but there will be local tourism offerings that will allow us to discover our own backyards. Go out and do that dive course you've always wanted to do, and make the most of the attractions that we have."
In the Far North, mayor John Carter has been leading weekly meetings with Paihia, Kerikeri, Waipapa, Doubtless Bay, Rawene, Kaitaia and Kaikohe business associations to share information and ideas.
Carter said the Go Local campaign was a "great idea".
"The more of that we can do, the quicker and sooner the recovery and the better off we'll be. We've got to keep promoting our retailers."
Carter said the feedback he had been getting from business associations was "there's challenges right across the spectrum".
"One good thing that's come out of the Covid-19 situation is there's far better communication than there has been in the past.
"So, getting this out to communities and networks will ensure it's more successful."
Business Paihia chairwoman Robyn Stent said shopping local was "imperative", particularly in a region so dependent on tourism.
"With not even a domestic market to call on, people have to shop local or we're simply not going to be here," she said.
Buying online through local companies was also supporting the employees of that company, she said.
"It's their own jobs, the community and families they're supporting. People need to stop buying from overseas -they need to ask 'Can I buy in Northland?' And if I can then I should."
Kaitaia Business Association chairwoman Andrea Panther said she "totally supports" the Go Local campaign.
While some businesses in the area had adjusted to the new rules of contactless click and collect and deliveries, it hadn't been possible for others, including small cafes, she said.
"There's definitely anxiety of not knowing how everything is going to go.
"It's not as easy for food places. Kaitaia hasn't got the population for them to risk opening ... I've spoken to two food places who say they couldn't afford to open just yet.
"Therefore, promoting and supporting them is really important."
Kaikohe Business Association chairman Mike Kanji implored residents to help "get Northland and the economy going".
Although he hadn't heard of any local businesses closing down, "I know a lot of businesses are struggling out there".
"New Zealanders are fighters, there will be some struggles out there, but at the end of the day the strong will survive.
"It boils down to whether they can pay their rents, that's why it's so important to shop local."
It's "uncharted territory", but the popular Piggery Secondhand Book Shop in Whangarei opened for business with new level 3 rules in place on Tuesday.
Owner Chloe Clennell and shop assistant Samantha le Grice will be at the Walton Street shop on separate days to prepare online and phone orders for customers to collect.
They will also offer a delivery service once a week throughout the city, or books can be couriered for an extra cost.
"We intend to have windows full of existing books so people can see what's new," Clennell said.
"We've always had a website and Facebook page, but this is uncharted territory, it's not something we've attempted before.
"We're pretty confident we'll get through. It might be a little difficult but we're confident we'll do it."
Clennell said now was a great time to be reading, as even at level 3 most people were still expected to remain at home in their bubbles.