Businesses slam lifting of restrictions as thousands flee Auckland

City will become a 'ghost town', according to business chamber, which also questions downgrading of red settings

Businesses slam lifting of restrictions as thousands flee Auckland

The Auckland Business Chamber has criticised the latest move of the government to wait until the end of the year before downgrading the red settings in Auckland.

"It does not make sense. It is safe for Aucklanders to leave the city from Wednesday and move from red to orange but unsafe for the city to shift to orange," said Michael Barnett, the chamber's chief executive officer. "We've done everything we can, yet we’re stuck at a restrictive red light while modellers promote wild extremes of forecasts and count the days of an infection cycle.”

According to Barnett, small businesses will suffer from the government's move until the end of the year, particularly workers in hospitality, accommodation, and tourism.

"Small businesses, especially those in hospitality, accommodation and tourism, don't deserve this," he said. "And while we wait for the lights to change and wonder at the logic, Auckland will become a ghost town. Money and patronage needed to save local businesses, repay debt and recoup losses, will disappear into the regions."

Read more: Employers pleased with mandatory vaccinations

Barnett’s criticism adds on to the growing pile of complaints that the government is receiving regarding its timeframe to downgrade the red settings in Auckland.

Opposition leader Christopher Luxon of the National Party is also urging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to downgrade Auckland from red to orange immediately instead of waiting by year-end. Luxon said the setting "makes a huge difference" to small businesses, while accusing the government of not following its own criteria.

Ardern on Monday announced that Auckland and other areas under red light will be placed under orange settings starting December 30 at 11:59PM, giving more freedoms for vaccinated people. Northland, however, will remain on the highest red light setting, according to Ardern.

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