While the sound of gym equipment clanking at Club Physical might lull you into a false sense of 'normality', the reality is, like so many local businesses right now, the Kaitaia gym is doing it tough.
Northland's drop in alert levels from 4 to 2 in recent weeks has meant businesses have been able to restart operations, but the impact of the recent lockdowns continues to wreak havoc across a number of industries.
Health and fitness, hospitality, tourism, events and certain products and services are feeling the pinch of social distancing and supply restrictions.
Stan Day is the co-owner of Club Physical, as well as Collard's Tavern and owns a suite of commercial properties in town.
He and best mate John Stewart, another local business owner, were born and raised in Kaitaia, have raised their own families here and built their businesses in the community.
They've invested blood, sweat and tears over many years and even survived a print apprenticeship together at the Northland Age.
The pair are therefore intimately familiar with what makes Kaitaia tick and agreed it was the toughest economic environment they had seen in their lifetime.
Stewart co-owns Printing.com on Commerce St, is a Te Hiku Community Board member and co-owner of the famous 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza surf casting competition.
He said his printing business alone had suffered incredibly as a result of the second round of lockdowns, mainly due to the majority of his business being based in Auckland.
"Some industries like construction haven't seen big changes during this lockdown because they've had work lined up and are ready to go," Stewart said.
"Unfortunately for us, being in level 2 in Northland doesn't mean much when Auckland is in level 4, as that's where most of our income comes from.
"Coming into spring is also when we usually increase in sales, but when small to medium businesses come out of lockdown, they don't want to spend money on printing or advertising, so that's usually one of the first things to go."
Stewart said this lockdown had been far worse than last year's experience and estimated an expected loss of around 80 per cent in revenue - doubling that of last year's 40 per cent loss.
"In my opinion it's a lot harder this time around because people have learned from the first lockdown, so have closed their wallets and are being more conservative.
"While the Wage Subsidy Scheme covers 60 per cent of wages, I still have to pay for my machine lease, ACC, insurance, rates, franchise fees and rent - those costs don't go away."
Day explained he was experiencing a similar situation with his businesses.
The father of two said he was also feeling the strain of having to negotiate with the bank regarding his commercial properties and with tenants struggling to pay rent.
"It's pretty hard this time around and especially for Collard's where we were just about to come into our busy season," Day said.
"We've had to cancel many events and all of our casual staff have pretty much lost work as events were their main source of income.
"Thankfully I have enough going on that I think I'll be able to get through, but I know a lot of businesses who won't survive, even with the government subsidies available."
As part of his role on the Te Hiku Community Board, Stewart said he also had concerns about the future of work and what it would mean for local industries.
He said the trend for businesses to work from home as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, particularly local government, meant there was less traffic in towns to support the local economy.
"If people don't move, businesses don't make money and I'm worried about the increase of people working from home and what that will mean," Stewart said.
"There's a trend for Far North District Council staff towards working from home and the council is suggesting that's because it's cheaper for the ratepayer - but is it really?
"If you think about it, when people are in the office, they spend money for lunch, on petrol, replacing tyres, buying coffee and they need to rent office buildings.
"The impact on productivity also goes down in a lot of industries when working from home and the lack of human connection and not being able to sit in the same room together, well without it, we're in trouble."
The Ministry of Social Development Northland recently announced a helpline launched in lockdown would continue to answer queries about financial support to Northland businesses as Covid-19 alert levels dropped in the region.
Te Taitokerau Business Support Helpline is an MSD Northland initiative which answers queries about MSD Covid-19 financial supports, including the Wage Subsidy August 2021 and Wage Subsidy August No 2 2021.
MSD economic development manager Darrell Lambert said the helpline was a direct response to businesses' need.
"We realised quickly that our local businesses needed a direct channel to understand and navigate the supports available to them during these heightened alert levels," Lambert said.
"With Northland's recent move out of alert level 3, and with Auckland remaining at alert level 4, businesses may still be doing it tough. The continued availability of the wage subsidy reflects that.
"If you are eligible for the wage subsidy, we encourage you to utilise the support available and call if you need more detail or help with the process."
Lambert said the MSD team was also reaching out to Northland businesses - particularly sole traders - and had made more than 385 calls in the last week alone.
"If you've been affected by Covid-19, we are here and are ready to help."
The MSD Business Support Helpline (09 983 9103) is available to both employers and sole traders and is open Monday to Friday 8am-4.30pm.
To streamline a wage subsidy application, sole traders looking to access business support are encouraged to do the following:
1. Ensure that your IR number on your application matches those that are held with Inland Revenue
2. Give us your name as the name of your business (it needs to match the IRD number)
3. Give us the correct bank account number
4. Choose fulltime if you work 20 hours or more a week, or part-time if you work less than 20 hours a week. Don't worry about your New Zealand Business number if you don't have one or don't know it
5. Confirm with Inland Revenue that you are listed as a sole trader/self employed
6. Call Te Taitokerau Business Support Helpline where we can review and progress applications
"While there are applications in the pipeline, we are committed to supporting our business community, and ask for your patience as we get them processed for payment," says Lambert.
To access the Business Support Helpline, call 09 983 9103 to speak with regional labour market adviser Ann Dysart, or 09 983 0553 to speak with work broker Chrissy Murray.
Sole traders are also able to apply for a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN), which is a unique identifier which can speed up interactions with government, suppliers and customers, and other businesses.
MSD business supports. MSD continues to offer the following suite of services to the Northland business community:
Wage Subsidy August 2021 No 2. Applications opened on Friday, September 3 for businesses and self-employed people who have or predict at least a 40 per cent decline in their revenue from August 31 to September 13 and meet all the eligibility criteria. Businesses that applied for the initial Wage Subsidy August 2021 payment and who meet all the eligibility criteria for Wage Subsidy August 2021 No 2, can apply for another wage subsidy payment two weeks after their previous application.
Short-term Absence Payment. Available to help businesses pay employees who can't work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test result (also available to the self-employed) (https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/short-term-absence-payment/index.html)
Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme. For employers and self-employed people to help pay employees who need to self-isolate and can't work from home; (https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/leave-support-scheme/index.html)
Other business support: Resurgence Support Payment. Available through Inland Revenue in the event of a Covid-19 alert level increase to Covid level 2 or higher. Businesses must be able to show a 30 per cent drop in revenue or 30 per cent decline in capital-raising ability over a seven-day period at the raised alert level, compared with a typical seven-day revenue period in the six weeks prior to the increase from alert level 1. Apply for the payment via Inland Revenue (https://www.ird.govt.nz/rsp).