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Subsidy a ‘godsend’

Nick Rogers, owner of the White Swan in Greytown, said the government’s wage subsidy was a “godsend”. PHOTO/FILE

Employees ‘keen’ to go back to work

STAFF REPORTERS

Lockdown and travel restrictions have hit almost all businesses hard, but particularly those in the tourism, hospitality, retail, and construction industries.

So, for some Wairarapa businesses, the covid-19 government wage subsidy was a much needed “lifeline”.

For Nick Rogers, owner of the White Swan in Greytown, the subsidy had been a “godsend” and he praised how quickly the government acted.

He has 83 staff, also running hospitality services at the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka and at Monteiths Brewery in Westport.

“We are paying all our staff, including casuals and it is making them all feel valued,” he said.

Masterton Newbolds is 76 years old and has weathered storms before, but owner Mark Heginbotham said the wage subsidy scheme was a “huge relief”.

With it, he was able to pay his 17 staff 100 per cent of wages.

Heginbotham has also been able to trade a little online as appliances are essential.

He had, as usual, got his stock down before the end of the March 31 financial year and has strong business mentors to advise him, but he said everyone was in the same situation and nobody knew how long the shops would be closed.

“Like everyone else, we would love to see the back of this thing.”

He said that he was “stoked to be in Wairarapa” and hoped it would come out of the lockdown soon.

Holmes Construction director Marc Jurlina said the company had been “hit pretty hard” by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 but had since prepared for hard times.

Staff were still being paid as normal.

“It’s been a huge help. It’s been great to pass that on to the team.

“The signs are relatively positive from a construction point of view.”

Gareth Norris, managing director at Jennian Homes Wairarapa, said many of their contractors, small or big, relied on the subsidy and without it, redundancies would have followed.

“It’s really given them some security. It’s absolutely been a lifeline.

“It definitely softened the financial impact for the company and our staff.”

Though construction had come to a standstill during the lockdown, except on projects relating to essential services, his team was “keen and ready to go back to work”.

Coming out of the lockdown would be much harder than going into it though, and they were working through the logistics of this, he said. Norris was optimistic about life after lockdown.

“With the sharemarket changing and hitting financial lows, we are still seeing interest in new homes.”

He thought the region could be in for another building boom, with those in the city looking for a lifestyle change.

The wage subsidy would help keep Wairarapa-based JNL going and make it easier for it to restart when the lockdown ends executive manager Dave Hilliard said.

“But like any business, big or small, we need to be producing something to make money,” he said.

“Shutting down for a month is a massive drain but we also need [our team] to be safe and we support the government lockdown.

“Our biggest worry if it goes on for too long is how hard it will be to restart the plant.

“We’ve got to keep as many people, our family really, employed as possible.”

The 531 employees [including in Gisborne and Kaikoura] who would receive the wage subsidy included mill workers, plant servicers and forestry contractors.

Businesses accessing the wage subsidy scheme must pay employees at least 80 per cent of their pre covid-19 income. Where this is not possible, they are required to pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker.

Businesses must also undertake to keep employees in employment for the period of the 12-week subsidy. – Gianina Schwanecke and Karen Coltman

1 COMMENT

  1. Hopefully many marginal business’s will take a lesson in how the lack of funds have nearly sunk them . If we want to come out with a high value/earning country the business’s need to lift their game and forget bottom low pricing operating. The business needs to be viable not a hobby. If they pay tax they must be making money. A lot will miss out on Robinsons pay back of taxes already paid. NZ should be a high income high value country., then we get people out of poverty.

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