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Auckland business event speakers advise caution, rapid recovery

Auckland business event speakers advise caution, rapid recovery

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Business leaders in Auckland are being warned against complacency before the underlying economic effects of Covid-19 hit.

Auckland City's marina during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown.

Auckland City’s marina during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown.
Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development agency is predicting as many as 50,000 people could end up out of work as the economy takes a hit from the pandemic.

The agency is holding a summit today to discuss the city’s response and a recovery plan.

The former head of Air New Zealand Rob Fyfe, who has been an advisor on the Covid-19 business recovery to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, is urging the government to capitalise on its hard-fought Covid-19 elimination status.

He told city leaders the country’s containment of community transmission had put it in an enviable position and urged the government to rapidly expand its managed quarantine facilities to capitalise on the high-value migrants, tourists and investors who want to come here.

“Our ability to attract foreign direct investment, attract skilled migrants, international students along with entrepreneurs and businesses wanting to shelter from repeated lockdowns, our ability to leverage our renewable energy supply, agri-tech and aqua-tech skills to enhance the productivity of our abundant land, sea and water resources in a sustainable way, along with our ability to attract high value tourists, creates a wealth of opportunity to enhance the prosperity and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.”

Fyfe urged Auckland to be agile and react fast to the changing challenges of Covid-19 – unlike government bureacracies.

He said government is good at many things, but not rapid changes.

“One of the weaknesses is they are not agile, departments can be very territorial and people hold on to rigid positions far too long when the database and facts have moved on.”

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the pandemic was still raging globally, with almost 8 million new cases in July alone, and the city needed to manage the economic threat.

Figures from the development agency, ATEED, show 150 Auckland businesses a day are contacting a Covid-19 support line asking for help.

ATEED said 70 percent of its jobs were being supported in mid-July by wage subsidies.

It is predicting 40,000 to 50,000 Aucklanders may lose their jobs in the pandemic recession.

Close to 4500 Auckland firms have registered with the government’s regional business partner network since the country went into lockdown – almost four times the number for the whole of last year.

The network allows businesses to access $5000 for specialist advice, and so far nearly 3000 have used the vouchers.

ATEED chief executive Nick Hill said Auckland was affected more immediately than other parts of the New Zealand economy, but could potentially recover more quickly.

Sir John Key said the economic effects of Covid-19 were only just beginning to become apparent. The former Prime Minister and National Party leader was one the keynote speakers at the summit to discuss the city’s recovery plan.

Sir John said the domestic property and equity markets were strong but the impact of job losses on the economy would be made clear next month, when the government wage subsidies are due to end.

“We are in the very early part of what is going to be a very significant contraction of the economy here in New Zealand and globally.

“You’re starting to see those numbers play out. Some things are masked by wage subsidies and the like.

“We can’t afford complacency.”

ANZ chairman and ex-Prime Minister John Key.

Sir John Key
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

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