Auckland Business Chamber slams 'unfairness' between big firms, SMEs

Groups claim the lockdown endangering smaller businesses

Auckland Business Chamber slams 'unfairness' between big firms, SMEs

The Auckland Business Chamber has called out the ‘unfair’ treatment between large firms and small businesses amid the extension of Alert Level 4 in the city. Michael Barnett, chief executive officer of Auckland Business Chamber, said that the lockdown is affecting various sectors "differently."

"Vineyards are unable to prune which will impact this year's harvest; manufacturers have lost customers because they have failed to deliver supplies to feed industries able to operate down the country; hospitality outlets are teetering because they need a client base with the freedom to move," he said.

"And then there are the winners – those that can work from home, government servants, and of course, the supermarkets," he added.

He underscored that there is frustration over how essential businesses are defined and how regulations favour bigger, well-resourced firms over small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

"SMEs, the engines of the economy, are capable of contactless commerce and must be able to operate, not live hand to mouth on subsidies, hoping that they can stretch dwindling resources while a plan is hatched to open the Auckland economy," he said.

Auckland will remain on Level 4 lockdown until September 21 to prevent further spread of COVID-19, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. However, Barnett warned that businesses will be devastated by the restrictions based on a "health-only response," which neglects mounting economic and social costs.

Read more: Unions urge employers to play their part after latest outbreak

"Auckland cannot afford to stay in Alert Level 4. We're bleeding tens of millions of dollars each week but there are social and personal impacts negatively impacting people's wellbeing, confidence, and willingness to comply with this health-first approach."

Barnett added that there has to be a different response against COVID-19 without compromising the livelihoods of the public. Retail NZ also said that the extended restriction in Auckland could be a "fatal blow" to businesses there despite government support.

"While it is important for the government to manage the current health crisis, the extension to the Lockdown is hugely difficult for businesses, and may be a fatal blow for some," said Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ."

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