Mayor calls for staged move out of lockdown
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell is calling on the Government to start the process of a staged move out of Level 4 lockdown to save jobs, livelihoods and shore up the economy.
He says following Treasury’s ‘once in a century' report which states COVID-19 will have a profound impact on economic and financial systems in New Zealand and around the world, now is the time to move.
“I commend the Government for the responsive and substantial business support packages they have been rolling out, including the new Tax Relief Package for small business, and I fully support the need to maintain a continued lockdown approach to mass gatherings to stamp out contagion.
"However, what we need now is a commitment to the immediate, staged reopening of small businesses, to save thousands of jobs and mitigate the potentially irreparable damage to our economy.
“New Zealand’s business landscape has cataclysmically shifted and we need to respond accordingly with an immediate and disciplined pathway for the recovery of our economy. This will come via small business, our economic backbone and generator of innovative new enterprises and jobs."
To quantify this, Tenby says four weeks ago Tauranga's small business economy comprised over 480,000 enterprises, representing 97 per cent of all businesses, employing 30 per cent of the work force and contributing close to 27 per cent of GDP.
"While this will have changed dramatically in the post COVID-19 environment, it's sub-sectors of the SME economy which will most quickly recover and lift the wider economy with it - and we must support them urgently.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Tenby established the New Zealand SME Business Network on Linkedin, and now with almost 12,500 members he wants to see this group leverage digital technologies, unavailable a decade ago, to communicate with each other via digital meetings, generate ideas, and deliver tangible outcomes to the small business sector.
Tenby says professional business organisations might consider using, as a baseline, the ideas presented to government in the Small Business Council report submitted in July last year.
“A group of intelligent and experienced people spent a year developing strategies to enable a step change in New Zealand’s small business economy. There are a number of initiatives sitting in this report that now urgently need executing, including those related to taxation.
“While the government’s financial packages address immediate pain points, the ideas contained within the Small Business Council’s report provide guidance on sustainability in a changed environment.
“While my prime focus as Mayor is on Tauranga and collaborating with our regional partners in the BOP region, we need to be boundaryless in our thinking post COVID-19 and support each other nationally. And our planning now needs to move as fast to reopen our economy as COVID-19 moved to shut it.”
He says while some commentators question the Government’s approach to the management of the pandemic in New Zealand, the reality is the curve is flattening.
"The Bay of Plenty only has 41 confirmed cases; let’s use this opportunity to re-open parts of our regional economy to SME businesses including roading and infrastructure sub-contractors while the traffic is at an all-time low, residential house builders, warehouse and distribution companies, the professional services sector, and key retailers, many of which are SMEs and all of whom can manage physical distancing in the work place.
“It is this group of small business owners, and others like them, who will lead the vanguard of economic recovery. Let’s pave the way for them immediately.”