Remember the regions? Economic stock take needed

The Government needs to wake up and take stock of the damage to regional economies due to these lockdowns, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Hon Louise Upston says.

“The decision to keep Waikato at Alert Level Three for longer will mean more pain for businesses and staff in the regions. They are being stifled by boundary rules which seem increasingly illogical.  

“If a business is allowed to operate at Alert Level Three under the health advice, it does not make sense that their staff cannot cross the border to work.

“Our regional economies are suffering and approximately150 applications for an exemption to travel to work are declined each day. These are all New Zealanders who just want to get on with their jobs. Their inability to work means businesses are operating at reduced capacity.  

“Kiwis are understandably anxious about their economic futures and the uncertainty around Alert Levels and changing parameters do not help.

“For many businesses the desire to move down Alert Levels is marred by anxiety that they will get less support from the Government. That is why the wage-subsidy should be available at alert level two as National has proposed.

“Auckland’s lockdown and Alert Level boundary rules are decisions of the Government. Yet instead of the Government bearing the cost of these decisions, many small and large enterprises in the regions are doing the heavy lifting.

“A more sophisticated approach should be adopted so businesses can operate in towns where low or no Covid-19 cases or close contacts are located. If lockdowns for particular towns can be imposed, then why can towns not be unlocked that are caught inside Alert Level Three boundaries?

“It’s time the Government recognised the stress and challenges faced in our regional economies whose businesses are often dependent on Auckland for supply chains, staff and customers.

“Our regions cannot wait for the new Traffic Light system and an eventual vaccine certificate. Those on the brink need a boost right now.

“Had the Government not been so slow to vaccinate New Zealander’s, such restrictions would not have been required in the first place. Now New Zealanders are paying the price.”