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Return to Alert Level 2

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Bruised businesses prepare for next round

STAFF REPORTERS

There were many businesses in the region that have not recovered from the 75-day lockdown earlier this year, Business Wairarapa chairwoman Becks Sayer said on Wednesday, when contemplating the news that Wairarapa was now at Alert Level 2 for the first time since June 8.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of resistance if they lock us down again,” she said. “It’s a real worry, it’s quite scary.”

She said that businesses would need to make tough decisions if things got bad again.

Redundancies could then follow, particularly as the wage subsidy would not go on forever.

“If businesses all of a sudden have to close again, when they’re already struggling, then they may well have to make some tough calls around their manpower.”

Sayer’s advice to small and medium-sized businesses was to “plan for the worst and hope for the best” and, in a worst case scenario, to “step back and take a good hard look at their staffing decisions, rather than just applying for subsidies”.

Larger businesses have also seen big changes since Tuesday night’s announcement, emanating from four positive covid-19 cases in Auckland which was placed at Level 3 until midnight, tonight.

Andrew Summerville, owner of Pak’nSave Masterton, said the store was experiencing a much greater demand than usual.

“We’d like to reiterate our message of ‘be kind and shop normal’, then everything will be okay. If we return to panic buying, some products will go out of stock for some people and be in the pantry of others.”

Summerville said custom had been consistently high, and wanted to reiterate the message to stay calm, shop normal, and be considerate with staff.

Masterton’s supermarkets were consistently busy on Wednesday. PHOTO/ALEYNA MARTINEZ

“Everyone has to remember that, no matter how frustrated they are, no matter how many things aren’t on the shelf that they want, the people filling the shelves or operating the checkouts are the least to blame.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people were wonderful, but there was that one per cent that just took all their frustrations out on people that deserved it the least.”

Barry Orme, owner of the Matador Motel in Carterton, said that several bookings would likely be cancelled due to restrictions on events, which had a knock-on effect to the hospitality industry — which was only just recovering.

“We rely heavily on events: if you’ve got to limit your gatherings to less than 100 people then a lot of these events just won’t happen.”

Orme mentioned the Bruce Springsteen tribute act performing at the Carterton Events Centre this weekend, which he worried would be cancelled, prompting subsequent cancellations at the motel.

The Boss was set to go ahead on Saturday night as the Level 2 lockdown was at this stage planned to lift at midnight on Friday. But tonight’s government announcements will decide the show’s fate.

If the lockdown was extended, the Carterton Events Centre would make an announcement through Facebook and will contact ticket holders directly.

Orme said, “We’ve also had visitors coming down to visit relatives staying at an old people’s home in Carterton, and that’s going to stop due to the restrictions.

“So even at Alert Level 2, right away it’s going to have a significant impact on business.”

Orme said the motel had been doing well to get back on its feet after the worst of the covid-19 crisis, and had quickly filled up with workers and travellers over the past few months, but this recovery was now in jeopardy.

“Auckland’s just the beginning, they were talking about how two of them went to Rotorua last weekend … I don’t think it’s going to be a quick resolution.”

The launch of the Maori Business Network, the first of its kind in Wairarapa, scheduled to go ahead on Wednesday night at the Carterton Events Centre, had to be postponed.

Paul Southey, one of the organisers, said the group’s hands were tied, because it was likely more than 100 people would have attended the event.

Venues holding strong

Bethany Parker and Reid Corleison purchased Featherston’s Tarureka Estate last week and this week they are facing renewed restrictions on gathering sizes, which are back to 100 people or less.

“It really is the worst news you could get when you have just bought a wedding venue business isn’t it?” Parker said.

She and fiance Corleison loved the venue they had booked for their wedding so much that they decided to buy it when it came on the market.

Parker spent Wednesday morning on the phone to brides booked to marry at the South Wairarapa wedding venue in the near future.

“I wanted to hear how they are feeling and really, they are worried, but we are all just taking it one day at a time,” Parker said.

“Actually, most of the couples have organised their guest numbers to be under 100 people so we should be right.”

One reason she rang the women was to let them know she was available if they wanted to talk things through with her. The venue is booked out until 2022.

Brackenridge Country Retreat and Spa in Martinborough is another popular wedding venue. They are busy, and management are remaining calm. Owner Jill Murphy said it was too early to tell how things will pan out across New Zealand.

“We are positive, and no one is panicking,” Murphy said.

“Wairarapa has done well and is a long way off from any community outbreak. We are hoping for the best.”

Owner of Lansdowne House Kadia Merralls, has a similar view. She has some big events booked and at this stage it was business as usual within the rules.

“It was wonderful to hold a large remembrance gathering at the weekend where people could hug and be close to each other,” Merralls said.

She was to fly to Auckland for a 40th wedding anniversary celebration but didn’t catch the flight. Wednesday for her was about adjusting to the new situation and hoping that business can continue. She holds many dinner events that are generally under a hundred.

“But it’s not good for business is it? Let’s be honest.”

Funerals

Richmond Funeral Services rapidly adjusted to Level 2 as were their clients with one person cancelling catering for a family funeral already.

Jenny Gibbens operates the business with her husband Peter and they were getting their contact tracing systems up and running. All attendees at a service will need to sign in and social distancing has started.

“The sharing of food and beverage at a wake is so much part of the farewell and it is sad to see this stop, but it is necessary,” Gibbens said.

Gibbens was ready for Level 3 where funeral sizes were drastically cut back and her movement to rest homes and hospital wings was limited.

“We wear full body protection gear when we go into the rest homes at Level 3 and 4 and enter and exit so that we don’t walk through the facility.

“It is hard for families when one parent has died but the other is in a rest home in lockdown. The family are forced to manage communicating with them from a distance.”

Elderly kept safe

Lansdowne Park Lifestyle Village manager Karen Scott has swung the village into lockdown in a day. At Level 2 people in the apartments are not in lockdown but the rest home facility is.

All staff were temperature tested when they came to work and asked to stay away if they had cold or flu symptoms.

“I spoke with the team today [Wednesday] to get staff aware again of the need to keep their bubble and home bubble as small as they can at the moment,” Scott said.

The lockdown means no visitors will be allowed.

Metlink services unchanged

Metlink have said they would continue full train and bus services in Wairarapa during the period of Alert Level 2.

There would be no timetable changes, but passengers would be expected to practise personal hygiene and physical distancing measures.

A Greater Wellington Regional Council spokesperson said that due to the three-day period, Metlink would not be rolling out stickered seating plans, but said this could be revised.

Fares would remain in place, including cash, but Metlink said that contactless methods of payment were preferred, to limit the interactions between staff and passengers.

Snapper would be available on buses, while eftpos would be available at train ticket offices.

Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said that customers were encouraged to keep practising social distancing and good personal hygiene.

“As we know from last time out, one of the best defences against the spread of covid-19 is personal hygiene, that’s hand washing before and after travelling.

“We’re asking passengers to keep a one metre distance on trains, buses and ferries and keep a two metres distance while waiting at bus stops, train stations and ferry wharves.”

School services would not require social distancing, which was consistent with earlier measures.

Wednesday afternoon, Jacinda Ardern said that mask usage on public transport was “encouraged” in all parts of New Zealand.

Council services

Councils services across Wairarapa remain open.

District councils are encouraging social distancing in all public places.

Libraries throughout Wairarapa will stay open.

In Masterton, playgrounds, toilets, drinking fountains, and community barbecue areas remain open, with an increased cleaning schedule.

Council buildings were still open, but all visitors must sign in, as required by central government – even if using the contract tracing smartphone app.

Computers at the Carterton library on Holloway St will be off limits.

Council meetings will be livestreamed online.

South Wairarapa’s council is also emphasising physical distancing and increased hygiene measures.

Council meetings scheduled in the council chambers have been relocated to the Waihinga Centre, and posted on YouTube.

Politics paused

Wairarapa’s Level 2 covid-19 lockdown status caused Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters to cancel his scheduled Masterton public event on Wednesday.

Peters held his morning Levin event but by-passed Masterton, going straight down State Highway 1 instead to the Beehive. The statement from the party said, “Peters has regretfully made the decision to postpone this public meeting and campaign work.”

Meanwhile Rathkeale College postponed its candidates’ debate scheduled for yesterday “until further notice”.

District court rules

The District Court Protocol at Alert Level 2 contemplates that Level 2 restrictions will apply for three days or may be extended.

They ask that people who are unwell, “please do not enter the court”.

Access to court will be for participants only or people who are conducting business at the court.

Where possible and appropriate the court plans to use remote participation and offered people an opportunity to organise this by email [[email protected] or [email protected]]

Places to get tested

Wairarapa residents can go to their GP to be tested for covid-19, DHB spokeswoman Anna Cardo said.

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