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Support needed: Rent relief's helping Queenstown CBD tenants facing a quiet few months

By CASS MARRETT

Most Queenstown commercial landlords have been offering rent relief through Level 4, but one tenant says the government should be doing more.

Westwood Group developer Johnny Stevenson says his tenants will pay 50% rent while
unable to operate during lockdown, and if they’re able to operate under Alert Level 3, rent
will be assessed on a ‘‘case-by-case basis’’.

Stevenson says since lockdown, uncertainty among tenants has them looking for some kind of guidance.

‘‘That’s the difficulty, isn’t it?

‘‘How long are we planning for?’’

He says they’re doing what they can for each business because the company’s reliant on property values, and those values are reflective of ‘‘the strength of the tenant’’.

‘‘I’m not saying we’re a charity, I’m saying that we’ve got a really vested interest in making sure that business succeeds.’’

At the moment, his tenants’ main concern is what happens between now and Christmas,
which Stevenson says will provide the next economic boost for the Whakatipu.

Another Queenstown landlord, Kim Wilkinson, says they are also offering tenants rent
relief ‘‘as needed’’ with wage subsidies, resurgence funds and the loss of the Auckland market taken into consideration.

‘‘We’ve always looked at and considered what’s happening to the retail environment and
Queenstown, and if things aren’t so good we offer relief,’’ Wilkinson says.

‘‘We want to keep these businesses afloat,’’ he says.

The Cow owner Mal Price, who says rent relief is ‘‘quite key’’, won’t be opening until Level 2, primarily due to ‘‘the state Cow Lane’s in’’.

‘‘If people want to pick up a takeaway, they’ve got to park a mile away. It doesn’t work, so
we’ll just wait for Level 2.’’

Meantime, Champions of the World owner Miles Wilson believes the government’s been
too slow off the mark to support tourism-focused businesses, even with the wage subsidy and resurgence payment.

‘‘That [resurgence payment] is just a one-off payment, our costs and our losses have been ongoing for over a year,’’ he says.

He says available funding to help businesses pivot away from tourism — which he  ‘‘desperately needs’’ — ‘‘should have been made available a year ago so that we could already be making changes to our businesses’’.

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz