Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
New Zealand’s three leading business organisations are dismayed at the Prime Minister’s announcement to continue the iron ring around Auckland next week if alert levels change.
Business NZ, the Auckland Business Chamber and the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) were taken completely by surprise by the Prime Minister’s comments at yesterday’s press conference. Those comments apparently confirmed the border would stay in place and Auckland businesses and the wider community would remain almost completely locked up, despite any alert level changes.
All agree there is an alternative that recognises the efforts Auckland has made while retaining a border but allowing freer movement across that border, with appropriate testing and proof of double vaccination.
“Businesses in Auckland are doing everything asked and more in many cases to try and operate safely and in the interests of the wider Auckland community,” said Chamber CEO Michael Barnett. “Our reward is to hear through a press conference that we’ll stay locked up. That is a devastating blow for many. It’s equally disappointing to hear that Monday’s announcement on alert levels and the border could be made with little no input or consultation from businesses and organisations in Auckland.”
EMA CEO Brett O’Riley said there is an opportunity to further incentivise Aucklanders to get vaccinated, by making that a requirement for crossing the border under Alert Level 3 or 2, along with a recent negative COVID-19 test, which has been enabled by the availability of saliva testing by both public and private providers.
“We have the opportunity to acknowledge the work and commitment made by the long-suffering business community in the Auckland region, to promote vaccinations and testing. People must be able to cross the border in Alert Level 2, with the requisite testing and vaccination safeguards, otherwise economic activity will continue to be severely constrained, within Auckland and in other regions” said Mr O’Riley.
“What we’re hearing indicates the Ministry of Health has too much sway in what is being proposed with limited regard to the mental wellbeing of business owners and their workers, or the economic and community chaos the ongoing lockdowns will cause in the region and beyond.”
BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope also expressed concern at the wider economic impact across New Zealand if Auckland remains heavily locked down.
“The current lockdown ring around Auckland has highlighted just how important the city is to national supply chains,” said Mr Hope. “Many businesses throughout the country in lower alert levels are still unable to operate at capacity because they can’t source critical materials, components, stock or people from Auckland.
“Having Aucklanders able to move around the region and the country is critical to the ongoing viability of many struggling businesses,” said Mr Hope.
All three business leaders are united in their support for retaining border controls, but those controls should recognise the efforts being made by Aucklanders.
All agree a system that took into account providing proof of a having a recent or negative covid test and/or proof of double vaccination should be enough to allow businesses to move people across the Auckland borders under lower alert levels.
“Continuing to grant exemptions to cherry-picked sectors just isn’t an option any longer,” said Mr Barnett. “The most likely outcome of that approach is encouraging non-compliance from those other sectors that miss out.”
“It would also be a great incentive scheme to allow travel across the border in the school holidays if families could show proof of vaccination,” said Mr O’Riley.