Latest news

Letter to Prime Minister – A world of revolving lockdowns: the best plan we have?

posted on

15 o Hui-tanguru 2021

To: Prime Minister – Rt Hon. Jacinda Adern

Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe

A world of revolving lockdowns: the best plan we have?

As you will be aware, when Tāmaki Makaurau last returned to Alert Level 3, I wrote to you seeking your assistance to prioritise a few pragmatic measures and introduce some novel actions to help hospitality businesses remain afloat during the next period of uncertainty.

Disappointingly, I was met with radio silence, and I now find myself in the same position, writing the same letter, asking the Government to do that which was raised back in August 2020.

A return to Alert Level 3 in Auckland affects 976 Restaurant Association member businesses, around 19,500 workers, and is responsible for losses that in most cases have weighed squarely on the shoulders of business owners. Only 58 per cent of our Auckland members are able to trade at Level 3 and this will be at significantly reduced levels. I have seen your comments to the media that this step has been taken out of “an abundance of caution.” As far as hospitality goes, three days is not insignificant: your abundance of caution is putting into peril a SME hospitality operator’s ability to survive.

There are many unseen costs associated with Alert level movement decisions: fixed rent costs, single server costs, and more commonly food wastage. While three days seems
inconsequential for other sectors – most notably the public sector – an Alert Level 3
movement sees large quantities of wasted food and further financial crunch on

For nearly a year I have been writing, approaching, pleading, to your Ministers to show leadership for the hospitality sector, if we are to keep these businesses open, workers in jobs, and livelihoods intact. I remain wanting.

The current Alert Level requirements mean hospitality is affected more than any other industry. Hospitality operations have no ability to trade at Level 4 and limited opportunity at Level 3 – working from home is not an option. The level of restrictions required at Level 2 add significant layers of cost and compliance that further limit the ability to trade profitably. Customer unease also means that even when open at Level 2, customer traffic is severely diminished until confidence builds again gradually on a return to Level 1.

In September we met with the Treasury and recommended the Government look into creating specific, sector-led alert level guidance in the event the country goes back up alert levels. We established this guidance for hospitality and submitted it to Treasury in November. A copy is attached.

This sector-specific alert level guidance addresses both operational and fiscal changes that could be ‘triggered’ each time there is an Alert Level change. This kind of guidance provides much needed certainty during these times and should be spearheaded by the Government sector-by-sector.

Hospitality business need financial support during the level changes and it needs to start from the first day business move into Level 3 not after 72 hours or seven days.

If a world of revolving lockdowns is the best plan we have, then I implore the Government to urgently engage the sectors hardest hit by these lockdowns – hospitality, retail, services industry – and work with them to chart a course for business survival. Nearly a year on, living in an abundance of caution should not be the best plan we have.

I am concerned by the overwhelming financial and emotional toll this virus is having on our sector. We need to see urgent political leadership for hospitality if we hope to see our prized sector survive.

Ngā mihi nui,

Marisa Bidois
Tāhūhū Rangapū (Chief Executive)
Restaurant Association of New Zealand

CC: Leader of the Opposition, Hon Judith Collins
Leader of ACT Party, David Seymour


  1. Guidance for COVID-19 Alert Level Framework – Hospitality Specific

Back to News