N.Z. in lock down: DAY 4

Yesterday was DAY 4 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to tackle the COVID19 pandemic.

As the reality of lock down makes itself known, I am sure I am not the only person wondering what happens when the Government decides there is no good justification for persisting with the lock down. With an economy ground to a halt, and most probably by then have shed tens of thousands of jobs across the board, getting back on our feet will not be a walk in the park.

There will be many challenges. Bars, restaurants, cafes, butcheries, bakeries, eateries, and even service stations will have to wait whilst the chains that supplied their edible goods get re-established. Those establishments whose performance was marginal and might have struggled to stay open over the quieter winter months, this might be a death blow. The four weeks that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said we will be locked down for is most probably a conservative estimate and 5-6 weeks is probably more likely.

But the demand will surely be there as soon as people have good reason to think that COVID19 is gone and that it is safe to start venturing out. I am in that year group where a huge number of people I know are having 40th birthdays and the several who found their plans for a big party and night on the town put on ice by COVID19 will be wanting their fun. Fortunately I am in December, so by the time my birthday rolls around, New Zealand should be fully open again. The organizers of all the many weddings and hens and stag nights that would have been on, and which have postponed, will be looking at options for rescheduling them.

But it will not be just the hospitality industry that is looking for a rapid revival. The construction sector will be looking for a shot in the arm to get things moving as well. A few minutes walk from my place is a two story rest home complex being constructed and I think the first stage is meant to be opening in June – I doubt it will be ready before August now. The Christchurch Convention Centre called Te Pae, and the Metro Sports facility are now both behind schedule.

The Government is promising a massive infrastructure splurge to get things moving again. Treasurer, Grant Robertson has promised to open the wallet for a substantial shot in the arm, on top of the billions that have been already allocated to supporting workers whose employers have shut and assistance for those with no work. The measure is one that I support, but I want the decision makers to think boldly about green infrastructure such as hydrogen plants instead of petroleum or diesel facilities, looking at e-waste recovery facilities and waste to energy plants.

However it is the tourism industry that is in the worst shape and it might well be the tourist industry that is still in the worst shape even after the economy is moving. Because of its high reliance on tourists from other countries, which might not have been so proactive as New Zealand in shutting down COVID19, tourism operators, small businesses will be slower to get back on their feet. Businesses such as the bakeries in Geraldine and Fairlie in south Canterbury, which are among the biggest employers in those towns will have taken substantial hits and most probably laid off staff. With everyone instructed to stay home there, will also be no case for tourism operators working, and those with expensive assets such as helicopters and light aircraft, which cost substantial dollars for every hour they are grounded, may fold.

And finally there is the service industry. The sector supplying services to the other sector – in the case of my work, rental cars – is severely restricted in terms of what it can do. Whilst a few rental cars may be required by Government agencies for official business, its lock down period is unlikely to immediately end just because the restrictions have been lifted. My guess is that I might not have work for 6 weeks/early May.

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