A Rotorua business expert says although life in level 3 would mean getting some primary sectors back, a lot more is needed to be done to get "anywhere near normal".
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While retailers could now begin planning for a level 3 world, those in hospitality had been left disappointed with the Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty president fielding dozens of calls from businesses whose leaders don't see a way out.
But the city's mayor said in her view a careful approach to life after lockdown was the right one and warned transition needed to be done carefully or risk reversing progress made on stamping out Covid-19.
New Zealand is expected to stay in alert level 4 until 11.59pm on April 22. While no decision will be made on whether the country moves to level 3 until Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday shed some light on what level 3 would look like.
It still included major restrictions around hospitality businesses such as restaurants, bars and retail stores, but food deliveries and e-commerce could reopen although face-to-face transactions would not be allowed.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the Government's "careful approach" was the right one.
"People's health remains paramount and we don't want to lose momentum on stamping out the virus.
"Relaxing restrictions needs to be done very carefully and safely or we risk reversing the progress that is being made and that would only exacerbate the impacts of Covid-19, including economically, particularly if we were forced into another lockdown."
Chadwick said there would be significant hurt and a major economic downturn regardless of when restrictions were relaxed, "so there's a balance needed between staying strong about fighting the virus and stamping it out, and doing what we can to protect businesses and the economy".
There were many businesses poised and eager to reopen and the partial reopening of some schools would help parents still working or able to return to work under level 3.
But Chadwick urged people to "remain vigilant, remain patient and please, keep doing as we are all being asked to do, so that we can start on the recovery just as soon as it is possible and safe to do so".
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said although many businesses would be positively impacted by level 3, many others still would not.
"Tourism, hospitality, cafes, restaurants and bars, anything that feeds off the tourism dollar will still [struggle]. Although we are getting some primary sectors back, which is good, it at least keeps something going.
"Forestry is very important for Rotorua, so there will be positive effects but we are going to have to do a lot more to get anywhere near normal."
Heard was encouraged by the Government's approach and remained "cautiously optimistic".
"They are taking their foot off the brake and in a mild, cautious way, and that's a good thing," he said.
"I know they can't do everything we want them to do but as long as everyone continues to play the game, hopefully we can return to pre-Covid-19 times sooner. It depends on what people do."
For Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty president Reg Hennessy, the level 3 rules were "really, really, really disappointing".
"There is basically no clarity for businesses in hospitality.
"Sure it will play into the hands of the McDonald's and those sorts of people, but for the rest, there has been no indication of when we can go back to normal and what the new normal is, nobody knows."
Hennessy feared if lockdown carried on for two or more months "we could go back to a town that has no hospitality and possibly retail left unless something dramatically is done".
"I've fielded dozens of phone calls from businesses who don't see a way out ..."
Hospitality NZ regional manager for the Bay of Plenty Alan Sciascia said level 3 remained particularly difficult for hospitality businesses, which were still prevented from providing their usual customer experience.
Sciascia said it was unknown when level 3 will begin and how long it will stay but "the longer it runs the more difficult it is for businesses to survive".
"All such businesses are now surviving on what limited reserves they have. Obviously that cannot continue indefinitely."
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said it was good news for the economy and consumers that more retailing will be permitted in level 3.
"The retail sector is focused on domestic consumption and can play a key role in helping reboot the New Zealand economy.
"Online trading, and the provision of click-and-collect services are a key means by which we can start getting things going again."
Harford said retailers were now in a position to begin planning for a level 3 world, with greater clarity around what is permitted.
"Businesses will now be thinking about how to manage social distancing and hygiene requirements in workplaces, making sure they have online fulfilment organised to meet customer needs, and establishing an online presence if they don't already have one."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said many tourism businesses were prepared for this time of year to be quieter.
However, she said spend patterns for the week ending April 5 showed the lockdown's impact on the local economy, with a 53 per cent downturn in spend compared with the same week in 2019.
"Tourism Bay of Plenty is considering the reset of tourism and how to make it more resilient, more collaborative and more regenerative for our people and place.
"We intend to work closely with industry on this and have specialist product development resources to focus on capability and capacity building and investment attraction, including a special focus on Māori Economic Development."
- Additional reporting, Leah Tebbutt