National News

National News is brought to you by a partnership between Crux and RNZ News 

South Island business owners: 'There are no cases down here'

Sep 14, 2020

It's decision day and South Island businesses are pleading for a return to Covid alert level 1.

The Cabinet will meet today to review the alert levels, as it continues to deal with the Auckland cluster.

Auckland is currently on alert level 2.5 and the South Island - where there are no known cases of community transmission - is on level 2.

Southern business owners say that needs to change.

In the tourist mecca of Queenstown where the economic impact of Covid is being felt hard, a move to alert level 1 is much needed, according to Geoff McDonald, chief executive of Skyline Enterprises.

The company runs a number of tourist activities in the resort town, including the gondola, luge and dining options.

McDonald said now is the right time to lift level 2 restrictions.

"There are no cases down here and there haven't been for many, many weeks, not days," he said.

"Given there are so many tourism and hospitality places here that will likely be frequented over the upcoming school holidays, I think the government needs to move and they need to move early."

In Christchurch, Nasir Khan, who is a director at local restaurant Two Fat Indians, doesn't understand why the South Island is on alert level 2.

He said business is suffering, and even if the South Island moves to level 1, he doesn't expect customers to return quickly.

"Weekdays we have no lunch at all because people are not in town, and there are so many food outlets in town," Khan said.

"It's not only us, everyone is on the same boat now."

Hospitality businesses are struggling with not enough customers and too much competition, one restaurant owner says. Photo: Christchurch City Council

Owner of new business will go with the flow

Josh Thomas, who is a director of Woof! Bar in Dunedin, has a slightly different view.

His business opened one week before the nationwide level 4 restrictions in March.

Thomas said he trusts the government will make a decision based on health evidence and is happy to operate at level 2.

"From a business point of view, my priority is not going up a level so I'm happy to endure level 2 for as long as I need to if it means we don't go to level 3 and of course level 4."

Lynley Gilchrist-Lunn, who runs The Garden Window Cafe in Nelson, says the current restrictions are causing confusion among customers, leading to conflict with staff.

She said level 1 will help sort that out.

"We have had arguments in store between staff and customers to do with what exactly should be required, how exactly they should be behaving and what our responses should be in relation to that behaviour," Gilchrist-Lunn said.

Staying in the top of the south, Picton backpacker owner Rob Burn says for accommodation providers like his, a South Island alert level change won't make much of a difference.

He says until the government can arrange safe trans-Tasman travel, businesses will continue to suffer and he believes people should accept Covid as part of their lives.

"We have to learn to live with it and the sooner we accept that and place decent barriers around our most vulnerable and get on with living I think that's going to be the best thing," Burn said.

The government will announce its decision on alert levels for the country this afternoon.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Support Crux Support Crux