Owners of "non-essential" Rotorua businesses have described the heart-wrenching process of closing down in preparation for the four-week lockdown beginning at 11.59 tonight.They said they did not know what is to come or how long they could last, but backed the Government's extreme action to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Yesterday, the Government, retail banks and the Reserve Bank announced a $6.25 billion financial support package for homeowners and businesses affected by the crisis.
The Business Finance Guarantee Scheme will provide short-term credit to cushion the financial distress on solvent small and medium-sized firms. It will include a six-month principal and interest payment holiday for the firms and mortgage holders.
As the level 4 lockdown begins, some Kiwis have switched to working from home while others face an enforced holiday, or redundancy.
Rotorua hairdresser Adam Newson of Adam's Cave said he would be looking into the mortgage relief option announced yesterday as well as wage subsidies to avoid drawing on his staff's holiday pay.
He said he sent his six staff home yesterday and spent the day giving clients their last cuts for a month.
Newson, a hairdresser in Rotorua for 35 years, said he had been turning down tourist clients for weeks and the Government had made the right move.
"They couldn't let it go on any longer. Especially for my trade - you're touching people, up in their face, you can't keep a metre away.
"I don't want to make any of my old ladies sick."
For six-month-old Rotorua tourism business Secret Spot Hot Tubs, the closure came on the cusp of their busy winter "good hot-tubbing" season.
Keith Kolver, co-owner with brother Eric Kolver, said they had just hired three extra staff.
They were committed to keeping all staff employed as long as possible. The business received Government wage subsidy money within 24 hours of applying.
"We will eke out what we have got and hopefully get through…. We will just roll with it."
Kolver spent yesterday"battening down the hatches".
He stockpiled long-life foods and drinks but said some beer would have to be binned. Pies and fridge items had been divided up between the staff on Monday.
"They took the bubbles and I took the tomato sauce ... I think they had a good night."
CrossFit Rotorua owner Munro Waerea said members continuing to pay their memberships were "all that is keeping me open".
He let members take home pieces of equipment that would otherwise just be "collecting dust" and planned to run workout challenges online and demonstrate exercises with household objects.
"I just want to keep the engagement going."
He said Monday's announcement was "surreal" and left him "stunned" but he believed the business could survive the lockdown without having to lose any of his six staff.
Builder Doug Simmons of Sunnycourt Homes said he locked up six projects on Monday - including one a week from being finished.
Simmons, chairman of the Taupo Master Builders branch, said he was fortunate all projects were weathertight, but other builders were concerned about timber warping in sites left open to the elements for an extended period.
His 10 self-employed staff had been directed to Work and Income to look into Government support options to sustain them over until he could give them work.
The construction industry was a vast employer and each company would be hit differently.
"I am 100 per cent supportive of the Government measures despite being inconvenient."
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said this was probably the biggest economic disruption New Zealand had ever seen and the impact on the sector would be massive.
"We are expecting to see a large number of job losses in retail and a large number of retail businesses cease trading over the coming weeks."
Harford said many retailers had already reduced staff numbers.
"Some may struggle to make wage payments over the coming weeks, although the Government wage subsidy will provide some support."
The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce was not able to be contacted for comment yesterday but Tauranga chamber chief executive Matt Cowley said the Bay's business community was in "survival mode".
"We have seen business owners in tears as they struggle to see how their business would survive at least four weeks without trade."
Businesses should be talking to their banks and insurance and registering for Government subsidies and support. They should also communicate openly with customers and stressed staff.
He said Covid-19 would be the circuit breaker for many businesses to diversify into online options with on-demand access. They should be planning for the first week back.
"People will be craving social interaction after four-weeks in lockdown and yearning for opportunities to socialise with friends and family."
He believed the experience would make businesses more conscious of risks and flexible working arrangements.
"We will all have fond memories of what business was like before Covid-19."
Covid-19 in New Zealand
- 155 cases
- 40 new yesterday
- 12 recovered
- 6 in NZ hospitals
- 1 case in Rotorua
- 1 case in Tauranga
Source: Ministry of Health