The hospitality and event sectors are breathing a collective sigh of relief with the move to level 1 allowing them to operate their businesses without the crippling restrictions.

After months of being banned, large gatherings - particularly where more than 100 people are involved - can resume from today when level 1 life begins.

It signals a return to normal with funerals, weddings, hospitality and public transport allowed to run as normal.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the shift to level 1 from midnight last night just hours after it was confirmed there were no active cases of Covid-19 in the country.


Ardern said she was now focused on rebuilding the economy.

Festivalgoers can pencil February 2021 in to their diaries as Good Vibes will go head around the North Island during winter with only minor changes to its billing, while Splore Festival will take place at its home Tapapakanga Regional Park next February 26-28.

Splore Festival will return next February. Photo / File
Splore Festival will return next February. Photo / File

Staff at Fork and Brewer in Wellington could not wait to get back to business as usual from tomorrow.

The company's turnover was hit significantly under the requirements imposed at level 2 and 3, and were difficult for both staff and customers.

Fork and Brewer operations manager Kieran O'Malley said staff wanted to get on and do their jobs and look after their customers to the best of their abilities.

Wellington bar owner Matt Mclaughlin, whose venues include Danger Danger and Panhead, said he was super ecstatic about the announcement and pleased the country was jumping straight into level 1 which would enable people to dance, order at the bars and allow more people in the venues and walking around instead of being stuck at their tables.

Mclaughlin said the restrictions had been really tough on the hospitality sector and getting rid of them was going to make a massive difference on the industry.

He expected a honeymoon period when people were excited to be able to be out again, but said the struggle would be ensuring they had bums on seats regularly during the winter months.


Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said moving to level 1 meant many hospitality operators could begin to reclaim a sense of normality.

However, White said they still faced some challenges as many of the cities had reduced foot traffic as people continued to work from home and consumers were also still being cautious about how much money they spent out.

The NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) warned the move to alert level 1 was not the panacea it appears to be.

"The hospitality sector was one of the first and hardest hit at alert level 4, and although level 1 looks like 'business as usual' on paper the reality for the industry will be very different," executive director Bridget MacDonald said.

She said while the industry was being optimistic there were plenty of social and financial challenges ahead.

The retail sector has also been hit hard and Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said moving to level 1 was the best way to help start getting things back on track.


And while domestic tourism can get into full swing, those catering for the international market may still have a long wait as the border remains firmly shut.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said Government support should focus on businesses still feeling the brunt of Covid-19.

The fallout from the virus was "immense", particularly in smaller towns reliant on tourism, he said.

Air New Zealand has confirmed it will ramp up its flights to just over half its capacity under level 1 from July, and Jetstar also plans to resume flying again.

Air New Zealand General Manager Customer Experience Nikki Goodman said level 1 will mark a return to normal for domestic customers.

"Social distancing is no longer a requirement, unaccompanied minors will once again be able to travel domestically, and customers will be able to travel around New Zealand again with pets as checked baggage.


Jetstar's fares will be priced from $21 when 75 return flights per week to five destinations resume from July 1.

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