By TRACEY ROXBURGH & MATTHEW MCKEW
Queenstown’s bracing for a second wave of Covid-19 restrictions, with genuine fears
about how some businesses will cope, should the worst case eventuate.
The resort, and the majority of New Zealand, moved back to Alert Level 2 on Wednesday while Auckland, where there were, at that stage, four cases of community transmission, has moved to Level 3 until, at this stage, midnight tonight.
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce interim boss Craig Douglas says that will hit the Wakatipu hard.
‘‘We can expect the Air New Zealand schedule to be very, very different by [Thursday] and
that market that was starting to arrive here and deliver some good business will dry up for at least this weekend.
‘‘That’s the very best-case scenario and beyond that we don’t know until there is more
understanding as to how far the virus has got.
‘‘At the moment, the most acute issue is that it [Auckland] is a market for us that has been
turned off again.
‘‘It doesn’t do any good for peoples’ confidence to make plans to travel, that’s one of the real concerns.
‘‘We’ve now got people who were going to come here over the next few weeks and now
they’re sitting going, ‘I’m not going to make that commitment right now because I don’t
know what’s going to happen next’.’’
Douglas says he heard of ‘‘plenty of cancellations’’ from hoteliers on Wednesday morning.
But he’s got bigger concerns about the longer-term impacts on the business community at large if Alert Level 3 is imposed on Queenstown again.
Resort bar baron Mike Burgess, boss of Republic Hospitality Group, which owns eight bars including Ballarat Trading Co, Winnies and Zephyr, says they’re reviewing trading hours, but it’s a ‘‘little bit of wait and see’’.
‘‘I think, for Queenstown, having our biggest market — Auckland — cut off, that is probably going to have the biggest impact.
‘‘It will most definitely affect the weekend.
‘‘Is it going to be three days, or just a soft entry and we go for three weeks?
‘‘We don’t know.’’
Meanwhile Future Bars managing director James Ace says they’ve already had to close
one bar, and another is hanging in the balance.
‘‘Overall, it is pretty concerning,’’ Ace says.
‘‘Fortunately we have had a good couple of months and banked some cash, but that’s
going to get chewed up pretty quick.
‘‘Obviously it is a concern because the assumption is that this is just a lead-in to what will probably be a lockdown period again, and naturally with that it affects a lot of people,
because the subsidy is about to run out.’’
Ace says the subsidy’s helped Future Bars retain its staff, and while a further extension
would be ‘‘massively helpful’’, the intergenerational debt it’d cause would ‘‘hurt’’.
‘‘If we went back into a lockdown and there was no subsidy, we would have to let staff go,
that’s the brutal facts.
‘‘I will have that conversation with my staff and it’s actually pretty emotional, but we
wouldn’t be able to afford to retain and pay everyone.’’
Douglas, meanwhile, believes if the government brings back Alert Level 3 — in which
the only real difference between it and Level 4 is the ability to get takeaways — for an
extended period, it needs to provide more financial support.
‘‘The businesses aren’t robust enough any more.
‘‘They don’t have sufficient reserves or resilience themselves to be able to deal with
these sorts of shocks, on top of what they’ve already had to deal with.’’