Wellington City Council investigating urgent support for struggling businesses

As venture capitalists battle the Omicron variant outbreak and occupation in Parliament, Wellington City Council is looking to help, providing targeted financial support.

“Businesses are on a knife edge, some of them only have two to four weeks before the doors close,” Mayor Andy Foster said at Thursday’s council meeting. on Zoom.

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce has found that revenues for almost half of Wellington retailers have fallen by 70% since the country went through a red light. And analysis by former mayor Justin Lester of Dot Loves Data, a data and marketing company, showed that by the second week of the occupation, Eftpos spending at 23 companies in Thorndon had fallen drastically. a quarter on average.

Councilor Diane Calvert said the council’s previous pandemic response plan had allowed businesses to rebuild, but this time they needed rescue. “Some companies won’t survive it.”

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Among the support measures included in its 2022 pandemic response plan, the council voted to reduce parking fees, make outdoor dining permits free, reduce license fees to $1 and offer deferrals. rates for businesses. on a case-by-case basis from March to May.

These measures would cost the council more than $2 million in revenue, but Councilwoman Fleur Fitzsimons feared the pandemic response plan would not go far enough to address the issues facing businesses.

She called for direct infusions of funds from a new emergency recovery fund and business loans, saying the original plan did not provide a way-finding solution and businesses needed a “changer game”.

Councilor Fleur Fitzsimons has proposed sweeping changes to the pandemic response plan.  (file photo)

Monique Ford / Stuff

Councilor Fleur Fitzsimons has proposed sweeping changes to the pandemic response plan. (file photo)

“I make no apologies for the scale and the audacity of it all,” she said. “Businesses are in crisis. We can act and we must.

Supporting Fitzsimons’ amendments, Councilor Jill Day said now was not the time for local government to stick with the status quo. “All of Wellington suffers if businesses fail,” she said.

The council said some businesses in Wellington will struggle to survive the Omicron outbreak.  (file photo)

Ross Giblin / Stuff

The council said some businesses in Wellington will struggle to survive the Omicron outbreak. (file photo)

Councilors Tamatha Paul and Jenny Condie have expressed concerns about giving public funds directly to private businesses and going beyond local government boundaries.

Council officials said providing the loans would be illegal under the lending rules because the council is not an approved loan provider.

The new fund and loan measures did not pass, however, the council expanded the scope of the plan to provide financial support.

Mayor Andy Foster says businesses in Wellington are on a 'razor's edge' due to Covid and the occupation in Parliament.  (File photo)

Ross Giblin / Stuff

Mayor Andy Foster says businesses in Wellington are on a ‘razor’s edge’ due to Covid and the occupation in Parliament. (File photo)

He voted to consider how two existing funds – the City Growth and Destination Wellington funds – could be reallocated, with an increased budget, to provide targeted financial support. The council was unanimous on the urgent need for relief with council officials reporting their findings.

Simon Arcus, chief executive of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, said “this support is a start, but the hard and sobering reality for many businesses in Wellington is that more needs to be done”.

Simon Arcus, CEO of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, said businesses needed support over the next few days rather than weeks.

Ross Giblin

Simon Arcus, CEO of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, said businesses needed support over the next few days rather than weeks.

HospitalityNZ Wellington chairman Paul Retimanu said restaurants and cafes felt in a “shadow lockdown” with many commuters not coming to work.