Rotorua is a special place for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. It was the last place she went before lockdown and the first place she visited in level 2. She finds time with Rotorua Daily Post journalist Kelly Makiha to answer burning questions from local businesses.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thrown Rotorua's events, hospitality and tourism sectors some hope they can survive their post-Covid-19 financial strains but warns for some there could be a hibernation period.
Ardern took the time to answer key questions put to her by the Rotorua Daily Post from the small business sector.
The businesses say they are grateful to pay staff through the wage subsidy but are worried their businesses could fall over in the meantime while they stare down the barrel of weeks and months with little or no income.
Ardern said while she didn't want to give false hope, Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford was still working on support for businesses such as the large events sector.
"We haven't finished."
Question from Ian Mexted-Dykes from Activities Unlimited:
"The event industry isn't allowed to work at the moment under your rules of maximum people of 10 in a group. This means we have no income and possibly won't for a few months. We are also concerned that we don't come under the tourism umbrella as we don't depend on overseas visitors. Can you give assurances we will be recognised as an industry and will be given assistance?"
Ardern said she was aware of the limitations of those in the conference industry and those who host larger events.
"There is uncertainty. We have done as much as we can to create timelines to see us keep moving through the alert levels."
She said it was hoped with closing the borders and their approach of "go hard and go early" they would be able to give indications earlier of when the country could get back to business.
'We need wage subsidy extensions' says event, tourism and hospitality sectors
"Phil Twyford is very aware of that sector and is doing work on it."
Question from Jacqui Alexander from Event Impressions
"We are watching the world go back to work and we aren't invited and we feel like no one cares. The event business sector, many who have been in operation 20 to 40 years, is unlikely to see any of the $400 million allocated to tourism. How does the Government propose a viable business working in the corporate and association conference market access funding?"
Ardern said the wage subsidy extension would give the Government a "buffer" to work through the issues specific to those industries.
"I know alert level 2 is not back to normal for a lot of people. As someone with a portfolio of responsibility to the arts, they use lighting and staging, they use a number of different workforces that large events use as well and they are specific skills for a specific industry."
When pressed further if there would be financial assistance now, Ardern said she got asked that question from a lot of industries.
"I know that industry is hurting and that is why Phil Twyford is doing that extra work. It may well be that we have to have a hibernation period. We don't want that to be long ... I'm sorry I can't tell you right here and now but what I can tell you is there are specific sectors that will require a specific response designed for them. We know that that is one of those industries."
She said support could be for viable businesses with large assets.
"We haven't finished and I'm very careful not to raise expectations but large events is the area we know there is more work to do there, arts is the other."
Question from Simon Short from Velocity Valley:
Jacinda, you have the world at your fingertips and the biggest public profile New Zealand has ever had. You need to be the Tourism Minister. When will this happen?
Ardern said she considered herself an advocate for New Zealand regardless.
"I see my job as being the best advocate that I can for New Zealand but also placing New Zealand in the best position possible."
She said just prior lockdown she got a strong message from Rotorua's tourism sector when she visited they wanted her to put the country in the best position possible to recover quickly.
"That go hard, go early was about making the pain as short as possible, recover so we can bring in a domestic market and, when we are in a position, open us up so the world can say that is a place that looked after its people, looked after its place and is safe to go to."
Question from Reg Hennessy from Hennessy's Irish Bar:
With commercial rents, we need some clear direction for landlords and tenants to be able to facilitate an outcome that works for both parties like Australia has done through their code of conduct. We could maybe even be braver and follow France who have put in place the Government pays 60 per cent, tenant pays 20 per cent and landlord takes a 20 per cent hit. What will you do?
Ardern said they were doing work in this area and she expected to be able to make an announcement "soonish".
"We have to keep in mind not every property owner is a large international corporate. Some are smaller and are finding this period as tough as their tenants are but we will have more to say on that in the coming period."
Question from Bruce Thomasen from Redwoods Treewalk
An additional two long weekends this year would make a big difference to retail, hospitality and tourism spend. Would you consider making some one-off holidays this year? There is also an opportunity for the business sector to seriously consider a four-day work week and how could they make it work? Would you make any recommendations along those lines?
Ardern said they were actively working on how they could support those suggestions.
"I am thinking about all the ideas that would encourage New Zealanders to get out and buy, experience and play New Zealand-made.
"When it comes to the four-day week, that is at our fingertips now. I would say to employers, if you're in a position to think about it as a workplace and see the benefits of productivity and so on and discuss it actively with your employees. Ultimately that falls to them rather than Government."
Question from Gregg Brown, Pig and Whistle and Capers Epicurean
Have you considered opening the borders and making a two-week quarantine part of the amazing New Zealand experience?
Ardern said she has had this idea raised with her previously.
"There might be some who wish to experience New Zealand for a longer period ... The primary focus is getting domestic tourism moving and getting the transtasman bubble under way.
"We need to think about international education and people who have a legal right to work here. Quarantine is quite a logistical exercise."
Ardern said everyone should remember New Zealand had a thriving tourism industry before Covid-19.
"We will again have a thriving industry. It might look a bit different and it might feel a bit different but that is part of our ambition. It is about making sure that in the interim we are supporting one another to get through."