9th June, 2020

New Zealand lifts coronavirus lockdown restrictions

New Zealand has emerged from its economic slumber earlier than expected, putting the country back on the path to normalcy.

Small businesses owners across New Zealand are rejoicing after the Government has announced the move to lift all COVID-19 restrictions (except border controls) ahead of schedule.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told reporters last week that the strategy of going hard and early has paid off, with the country on track to eliminate the virus earlier than it had hoped.

The news will be welcome relief to Zealand small business owners, which have been thrown into economic chaos as locals were ordered into lockdown and borders were closed due to the global pandemic.

But New Zealand has stopped the spread and now, just one person is recovering from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in New Zealand, and they are not being treated in hospital.

Arden had earlier indicated the Government would consider a move to the most relaxed coronavirus rules by 22 June.

Then, Arden said a decision would instead be made on Monday 8 June, providing there were no new cases of the deadly disease before then.

This means that the disease is considered contained, though the risk of community transmission remains.

The news will re-start the country’s economy, with shopping, gatherings, weddings and events back on the agenda. Public venues such as museums, libraries, cinemas and pools can also reopen if they comply with public health measures, and the hospitality industry can serve up to 100 people at a time.

But whether or not it’s too late is yet to be seen. A new report paints a grim picture of the economy. Approximately 6,700 retail businesses are at risk of closure this year.

Even more shockingly, 17,100 could shut up shop for good as result of COVID-19.

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Alleviating the rental crunch

Meanwhile, tenants unable to pay rent on commercial leases have been extended a lifeline from the Government. It comes in the form of compulsory arbitration for businesses with 20 of fewer full-time employees if the business can prove a loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19.

Retail NZ released a statement saying arbitration on retail tenancies is a good first step, but doesn’t go far enough.

“The Government’s announcement suggests that support will be restricted to small businesses, but larger firms are equally at risk because of the COVID-19 crisis. We would like to see the support be extended to all tenants,” said Greg Hardford, chief executive, Retail NZ.

The New Zealand sector has also received a $10 million shot in the arm in response to the impacts of COVID-19 to alleviate some of the pressures facing the sector. Government has also approved a $1 million funding package to encourage domestic tourism for areas most impacted by the pandemic.

The country relies heavily on the Chinese market, with Tourism New Zealand eager to welcome visitors back as soon as possible. The economic response to COVID-19 is available here.

MYOB’s latest Business Preparedness Guide for New Zealand small business owners is available to help you get your business humming again. You can download it here.