When disaster hits, sometimes you have to think outside the square.
So says Rotorua Central Mall general manager Peter Faulkner who is bracing for a potential surge of customers as the shopping complex reopens today. Faced with lockdown levels 3 and 4, owner Pukeroa Oruawhata agreed to ease rent from tenants unable to trade while adhering to Covid-19 restrictions.
"It has been difficult. We've been managing through the issues with our tenants. It has required hard work but we've had positive outcomes with most of them."
Faulkner said Pukeroa Oruawhata recognised the need for support during the lockdown and had been "realistic in what that support would be".
"In essence, we put an abatement on rent. The difference between an abatement and a deferral is you don't have to pay back an abatement. It's a reduction in what they pay. It's not treated as a loan."
Pukeroa Oruawhata made the decision to be positive and proactive, Faulkner said.
"We have a symbiotic relationship with our tenants; we need them and they need us. We need to walk alongside them as we progress through this. It's about adapting. We've had to be proactive and we've had to think outside the square really, although the walls of that square have been blown apart."
Faulkner was at the mall yesterday and said many people were already in the shops cleaning and preparing for level 2.
"We are excited and relieved at reopening. We're almost to the point of being ecstatic."
The mall's southern and western entry points will be open and monitored, with a collection of contact tracing details, as part of level 2 restrictions. A "sea of sanitiser" will be available.
"Irrelevant of what is legally required, we have an obligation to look after the health and wellbeing of our staff, customers and tenants," Faulkner said.
At Polynesian Spa, chief executive Gert Taljaard and his team were excited to get back to business.
The vacuum of international visitors to Rotorua has had a "regrettable" impact on businesses such as Polynesian Spa. Taljaard confirmed Covid-19 resulted in the loss of some staff but declined to specify how many.
"It has had a profound effect on our business - ultimately we are proud of our position in the community and people we employ. It has been a difficult time.
"We are looking forward to reopening doors and providing our New Zealand customers with the ability to enjoy our products and forget about their worries of the day.
Hopefully, we will provide some sense of normality for some people."
The pools will be open, but Taljaard said it may take longer for the spa part of the business as teams were working to meet and work to level 2 requirements.
Taljaard said Polynesian Spa originally opened nearly 50 years ago as a facility for locals, which grew as the number of international visitors did. In all of those years, the inclusion of locals had always been important but now it was especially so.
"It's great that we can now say 'yes, town is open'. Visitors to this city can enjoy a variety of fantastic experiences that will definitely open from [today]. That, for me, is the most important part.
"As a town, we need to get the message out that we are open. Yes, it has been difficult but as a whole, we can make it work."
From 12.01am, the doors were open for members at Flex Fitness Rotorua.
Manager Michelle Barton said although their free online classes and tutorials were hugely popular during levels 3 and 4, plenty of people were keen to return to the gym.
Barton said the gym's current swipe access system meant it was easy to manage level 2 restrictions such as collating contact tracing information and managing how many people are in the building. The gym was also open to any non-members interested in a trial but they would need to book an appointment and accept level 2 conditions first.
There will be some other differences from today."Our group fitness classes have a six-person maximum and we've marked out an area – everyone has their own equipment in their own box with their own sanitised wipes," Barton said.
"It's business as usual but with social distancing."
Barton said no members had been charged during the lockdown and she was keen to help anyone who has lost their job or might be struggling to pay membership because of Covid-19.
"Flex took the hit but we want to look after our members. People have been hit hard and membership is a luxury."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Covid-19 alert level 2 would be phased in. Retailers, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces and playgrounds are allowed to reopen to no more than 100 people from today.