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Economic lockdown recovery advice

‘Bureaucrats enable, but business knows best’

As Tairawhiti awaits the release of a draft Covid-19 recovery plan, one of the nation’s leading business figures says businesses here must be given the chance to lead it.

The Gisborne Herald understands between six to nine CBD businesses have closed down or will not reopen, following the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.

Gisborne District Council expects to release the draft Covid-19 recovery plan early next week but New Zealand Chamber of Commerce director Michael Barnett says that recovery needs to be led by business.

Speaking through Zoom at the Gisborne Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Thursday, Mr Barnett said Gisborne businesses were best placed to lead a recovery and urged chamber members not to let local government take over the process.

He said when the Government announced it was putting together a recovery group, the first thing he did was go to the Government and ask for business representation.

“Bureaucrats enable, they can come up with light regulations, but business knows best.

“If we are talking about recovery, let’s make sure we are not having local government or local government agencies telling us what a recovery looks like because what recovery looks like is a business thing.”

Mr Barnett said it was also a reality that by 2030 China would be self-sufficient for wood.

That was why he and several regional Chambers of Commerce were pushing for the “wood-first” campaign at the moment, he said.

Even in a small area like Rotorua about 3000 jobs could be created through a wood-first policy, he said.

“A wood-first policy would make it easy for local councils to build wooden houses and wooden commercial buildings and so on.

“We do have to fix the here-and-now but there is some stuff that is going to be happening, and the business community is in a unique place to manage it.

“We are in recovery mode and business has to drive this. You are the only people that can create job-rich communities.”

In Gisborne’s CBD, retailers are feeling a cautious optimism at the end of the first week out of Levels 3 and 4.

But some will be closing

But some will be closing.

The Dollar Dream Shop re-opened its doors in Alert Level 2 but owners, and sisters, Ying Foon and Jane Wing are planning to close the shop in the next couple of months after 21 years in business.

Mrs Foon said Covid did not help matters but it was only part of the decision to close the business.

“We will miss the friendly faces of our customers,” she said.

Other retailers, like George Moore’s and Godfreys — have shut up shop, as has the Bookshop Café, although Muir's Bookshop remains open.

Shoe Envie is also closing.

The footwear and clothing store was owned by Tasj Paulson and Tracey Kibble, who passed away on April 7.

“The death of my best friend and business partner during the Covid lockdown gave me time to reflect,” Tasj said.

“We have so many great memories and achievements. I just couldn’t carry on the business, it wouldn’t be the same. I would come to resent the business and (that would) taint those beautiful memories.”

Solely You owner Trish Falloon said she was “hanging in there”.

She had huge praise for Trust Tairawhiti City Centre Vibrancy manager Lana Davy who had helped pump up interest in local businesses.

“Business has been steady, and everyone has been happy and nice.”

She encouraged people to shop local.

“We may not have everything in store but come to us first to look.

“It is hard to tell people what the costs are behind the scenes for retailers.”

Colliers Menswear owners Phil and Lynda Collier said they had had some “really good days” over the past week.

“People have popped in just to ask us how we are doing and are saying they want to spend their money to support local businesses.”

Mr Collier said he had accessed the wage subsidy and the Government’s loan to small businesses, both of which enabled him to pay bills after six weeks of no income.

They were not sure how long the spending boom would last, with winter coming and the prediction of a recession equal to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But the shop had been through tough times before. Mr Collier’s father opened the shop in 1969, and saw it through two difficult periods, in 1971 and 1988.

Mr Collier has been at the helm for 30 years.

He was also very thankful to Lana Davy. Colliers had received $5000 from Trust Tairawhiti to set up a website, so if the shop closed again in the future they could still trade online.

“But this website thing could take over the bricks and mortar shops and then we will have an empty street,” he said.

“We have got to support local businesses or else we won’t be here.”

Beaufoy owner Yvonne Beaufoy said the transition for her boutique business into Level Two had been relatively easy.

“We’ve got plenty of space in the shop, and people are loving having a little bit of ‘normal’ and enjoying the retail experience.

“People are saying they’re happy to support local businesses more, which has been a nice trade-off with Covid.”

Koco Boutique owner Karen Sherriff said it gave them a boost to hear the positive feedback from their customers, and it was nice to see them all again.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce director Michael Barnett said Gisborne businesses were best placed to lead a recovery and urged chamber members not to let local government take over the process. The Gisborne Herald understands between six to nine CBD businesses have closed down or will not reopen, following the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown. File picture

  1. Dave says:

    It would be awesome if all the commercial landlords helped out their tenants. I know a couple of people who have been commercial tenants for a very long time, in fact one has been a tenant for decades. When they asked the landlord for help, the answer to them was no. Very sad. The landlord is a lifetime resident and businessman of our city.