By MATTHEW MCKEW
September will mark the end of a ‘‘false honeymoon’’ when Queenstown companies are
forced to make tough decisions, the manager of Fergburger warns.
It’s when the extension of the government’s wage subsidy, which has propped up hundreds of jobs across dozens of Wakatipu businesses, comes to an end.
This week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ruled out extending the subsidy for a second
time, saying it’s ‘‘not something that can continue on in the never-never’’.
The Ferg empire employs around 130 people in the town and has claimed almost $1.5
million so far through the original and extended schemes.
Boss Stephen Bradley says the company’s income’s normally 85 per cent reliant on internationals and he believes business will nose-dive come the end of ski season.
‘‘We are nowhere near what we were and the gap will get worse.’’
Bradley believes once the excitement of ‘‘people getting out of their region’’, the school
holidays and the wage subsidy end, Queenstown’s heading for a ‘‘very sorry mess’’.
‘‘It leaves us in a position where serious decisions we’ve been delaying, need to be made.’’
He won’t comment on potential job losses but notes companies across Queenstown will be
considering staff cuts, hibernation and closures.
Last week Ferg opened a new bar next to the world-famous burger joint, but also put Mrs Ferg Gelateria on Beach Street into hibernation.
Bradley wants the government to recognise how hard Queenstown’s been hit by Covid-19 and believes the town should receive extended assistance — especially with a trans-
Tasman bubble looking further away than ever.
This week, Victoria’s government reintroduced lockdown measures across Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, where the number of Covid-19 cases is rising.
The first round of wage subsidy in New Zealand was offered to companies with a 30 per cent fall in revenue and contributed towards 12 weeks’ wages.
To receive the eight-week extension, companies had to prove a 40 per cent decline over 30 days, compared with the closest period last year.
Arrowtown Golf Club manager Micah Dickinson says a crystal ball’s needed to see what will happen come September.
The club’s currently receiving the extended subsidy and he says ‘‘it’s been a lifeline’’.
‘‘Without it, I just don’t think we’d be in a financial position to operate the way we have been.’’
Lockdown meant a sub-par finish to summer, and even their busiest ever June couldn’t make up for the losses.
Up to 40 new members joined last month, with keen golfers unable to jet off to warmer climes over the winter.
But Dickinson says the ski season’s already having an impact on the late-season spurt.
The border closure presents a doubled-edged sword, he says, with trapped North Islanders
already booking slots for spring, but important international custom blocked off.\
Hydro Attack co-owner David Lynott says ‘‘it’s a bit early to call’’ if the company needs further help beyond the extension of the wage subsidy, but admits ‘‘it has been a huge
help’’ in retaining jobs.
‘‘Ideally we remain busy and do not need further support.’’
Both Hydro Attack and Arrowtown Golf Club have received just over $100,000 each for
their small teams.
Allied Press, which owns Mountain Scene and Otago Daily Times, received $4,471,893.60 in wage subsidies for 835 South Island staff.
It didn’t qualify for the extension.
Some of the big receivers
MILLBROOK COUNTRY CLUB
First round: $1,990,480.80
First Round: $576,427.20
QUEENSTOWN AIRPORT CORPORATION
First Round: $478,012.80
FERGBURGER, MRS FERG, FERGBAKER, FERG FOODS
First Round: $864,640.80
First Round: $1,942,910.40
QUEENSTOWN BUNGY LIMITED (AJ HACKETT)
First Round: $1,363,653.60
ST MORITZ MANAGEMENT LTD
First Round: $531,420
REPUBLIC HOSPITALITY LTD (BALLARAT TRADING CO, WINNIES, etc)
First Round: $627,004.80
JACK’S POINT GOLF & RESTAURANT (combined)
First Round: $309,301
QUEENSTOWN MEDICAL CENTRE
First Round: $438,398.40
ADVENTIUM TECHNOLOGY (combined)
First Round: $196,828.40
First Round: $427,257.60