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Panic buying as virus bites

Empty shelves at a Wairarapa supermarket. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Covid-19 has ‘huge flow-on effects’


As the Government announced a well-received $12.1 billion stimulus package, with more to come through the Budget, the grip of covid-19 was tightening in Wairarapa.

Supermarkets reported panic buying and increased online traffic.

Events continued to be cancelled or disrupted, including in the wedding industry as a result of self-isolation requirements for international travellers.


Pak’nSave Masterton owner Andrew Summerville said there had been an increase in online and in-store buying, largely related to panic buying.

“It’s certainly picked up in the last few days,” he said.

“The hardest thing we are finding is the products that are getting hit the severest are out of stock. But I’ve been told it’s coming back.”

His advice was for buyers to keep to their normal patterns.

“Panic buying ends up affecting the next group of people who might really need it.

“We are doing everything we can to keep the place safe and stocked.”

New World Masterton’s owner Clive Webber agreed, saying the biggest impact on their business had been the panic buying.

“We’ve definitely seen it lift in Wairarapa the last few days,” he said.

“It has been hectic.”

Online orders had increased from 20 to 30 per cent.

“The reality is we’ve got a lot of stock. There is a lot of food and variety.”

Both supermarkets had hand sanitiser and wet wipes available at their counters and trolley bays.

Kirri Hannifin, Countdown’s general manager of health and safety said it was important people understood there was plenty of food to go around and there was no need to stockpile.


Meanwhile, events continue to be cancelled or postponed in response to the government’s ban on crowds exceeding 500, and the upscaled fight against the spread of covid-19.

This weekend’s Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars and the National Drag Racing Championships at Masterton Motorplex have been cancelled.

Motorplex event manager Bob Wilton said they had followed the guidelines put out by the Government, Ministry of Health, and Motorsport NZ, which was “the right thing to do given the circumstances”.

Featherston Booktown has cancelled its early May festival, its board saying it was “putting the health and safety of the Featherston community, writers, volunteers, audience members and other guests above all other considerations.”

The board will consider rescheduling the festival to later in the year – or holding it in another form – but this will depend on government requirements regarding crowd sizes and events.

Even though the Carterton Events Centre holds less than 500 people, several events and shows have already been cancelled including Hogsnort Bulldogs Goodtime Show, Operatunity, Ucol graduation, the Wairarapa Cricket Awards, Ambrose New York Sax Man, and Talent Wairarapa.

The Masterton Racing Club’s race meeting at Tauherenikau on Sunday will go on, but with only essential personnel in attendance.

On Tuesday night, a decision was to be made on the Lions Book Sale scheduled for the final weekend of the month.

Several events and activities have either been postponed or cancelled including the Wairarapa Primary School Swimming Championships on Tuesday, Wairarapa Children’s Day 2020 and the Gladstone Inn Family Fun Day to celebrate 150 years in business on Sunday, the next two weeks of junior netball, and The Time Travellers’ Ball in Featherston in June.


It’s not just public events that are suffering, the wedding industry is also taking a pounding from the coronavirus.

Paula Bevege, of Rose and Smith, a wedding and events venue in Tauherenikau, said there had been “huge flow-on effects”.

Most of her clients were based overseas or had many guests from abroad, which meant travelling restrictions had drastically impacted wedding plans.

“We’ve got nine more weddings to run out [the season],” she said. “The two this weekend couldn’t cancel but have had significant numbers drop out. With next weekend’s wedding, the groom was Australian, so they’ve had to postpone that too.”

Those who had been forced to cancel or postpone their weddings were already struggling to find new dates.

“Yesterday [Tuesday], people seemed quite confident looking at September or October postponements,” Bevege said. “Now they want November or December weddings.

“But we don’t have the dates and are already booked out.”

She said other vendors and businesses had been really good about not enforcing their usual cancellation policies, but she still worried about the impact on small businesses.

“I really feel for my colleagues in the event space.”

Shelly Mason, owner of Festival Hire in Masterton, said the virus had affected them “severely”.

“We have gone from fully booked to a skeleton in 12 hours,” she said.


A Wairarapa leader in one of the industries earliest affected by the covid-19 pandemic has sounded an optimistic note.

House of Travel owner operator Sam Hepburn said they were “right in the thick of it at the moment, working through each booking”.

The situation was changing day by day, he said.

“Most still want to go on their holiday so are looking to defer their travelling

“So, it’s not all doom and gloom.”

Hepburn said they were working with customers overseas, to make sure they got home safely.


Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty said, “this is not business as usual”.

He said the stimulus package announcement would be welcomed by Wairarapa businesses and workers.

“The Government is pulling out all the stops to protect the health of New Zealanders and the health of our economy … The best protection for the New Zealand and Wairarapa economy is getting the virus under control, which is why we are investing $500 million in frontline health services to fight covid-19.

“I have met with the Wairarapa District Health Board and I am impressed with the planning they have in place. Yesterday’s announcement will help them enable these plans if they are needed to.”

Wairarapa MP, National’s Alastair Scott said the region and local GDP would be badly hit by the pandemic as a result of restrictions.

He was supportive of the Government’s response package though.

“It’s a big number,” he said. “It’s a good number in total. It’s doing its best to support businesses that are affected by the covid-19 with the wage subsidy.”

Though it was only for 12 weeks, he felt it would provide some breathing space for businesses.

Scott said more could still be done, such as delaying the introduction of a minimum wage increase and bringing infrastructure projects forward.

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