Businesses pleased with support

Mayor Jim Boult
Jim Boult
The Government’s $12.1 billion support package for businesses affected by coronavirus, including $5.1 billion for wage subsidies over the next three months, has been welcomed by business owners spoken to by the Otago Daily Times.

From the hospitality, catering, cleaning and laundry industries, most expected their businesses would be eligible for wage subsidies, enabling them to hold on to staff for at least the next three months.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult congratulated the Government for its ‘‘swift intervention’’, saying the measures will particularly benefit the many businesses in the district that support the tourism industry.

A Woman’s Touch owner Jill Sanders said the package would ‘‘definitely help us’’.

The Queenstown cleaning company, which has been operating for 20 years, employed more than 50 staff, many of them short-term visa holders.

‘‘We’ll definitely be eligible for [wage subsidies]; like anybody else that’s touched by the tourism industry, that’s a huge part of our market,’’ Ms Sanders said.

‘‘We don’t want to be putting anybody off. That’s our last option.’’

Artisan Catering owner Debbie Pickens said the wage subsidy scheme would help her business, which had taken a ‘‘huge whack’’ from weddings being postponed until next year.

‘‘It’s tough, and with the remaining end of the busy season, we’ve got a lot of staff to look after.

‘‘All the caterers and the wedding planners are feeling it because the majority of the events for the remainder of the busy season - for about six weeks or so - have been postponed.

Smiths Craft Beer House general manager Chris Dickson said he had yet to work through the details, but the package ‘‘definitely gives me a little more peace of mind’’.

However, he was keen to ‘‘band together’’ with other restaurateurs in the resort to think of solutions to the problems they were facing, rather than relying on financial assistance.

There was potential to work collectively to share the smaller number of customers in the resort.

‘‘If we don’t think like that, we’re in for a world of hurt.’’

Queenstown Laundry Service owner Jody King said the package gave her added confidence about keeping on all seven of her staff, but she had purposely built up financial reserves to see her through a downtown.

‘‘But if we can get some help from the Government to keep one more worker on that I possibly wouldn’t keep on otherwise, that’s good.’’

Mr Boult said the measures were aimed at small businesses such as food suppliers, printers, cleaners and IT companies, and would be of less benefit to big companies like Wayfare, which he chairs.

‘‘Wayfare’s monthly salary bill is in the millions, so 150-grand support is not going to make a particularly big difference to them.

‘‘Larger businesses will be eagerly awaiting the results of continuing government investigations into support for large or complex businesses - a number of whom are significant employers in our district.’’

Tourism employed more than 25,000 people in the Lakes district and contributed 73% of the GDP, he said.

‘‘Given our district’s almost total reliance on the tourism industry ... I am advocating for additional support from central Government for local business.

‘‘I want to see more being done for our district, which is at a significantly higher risk than any other in the country.”

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chairman Craig Douglas said there would be ‘‘some devil in the detail’’.

‘‘The broad nature is a good start though, as all businesses will be impacted, not just tourism.’’

And the chamber’s chief executive, Anna Mickell, said the $150,000 wage subsidy would go a long way for businesses with a small wage bill.

However, employers would need to look carefully at whether it would assist them.

‘‘It’s OK if your business has reduced, but if you have literally lost the lot, and you don’t know when it’s coming back, this is buying them some time but it may just be [delaying] the inevitable.’’

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