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Letter to the Minister for COVID-19 Response – Urgent review of Level guidance required

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5 o Poutū-te-rangi 2021
Hon Chris Hipkins
Minister for COVID-19 Response
Executive Wing 6.3
Parliament Buildings

Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe

We have all been dealing with COVID-19 for over a year now. In that time I have made
the case, a number of times, to Ministers to show leadership for hospitality and work
with us to improve the Government’s response to better support our struggling sector:
to keep businesses open, workers in jobs, and livelihoods intact.

When the Government’s Alert Level guidance was first mooted in March 2020, the
Government said our initial month long lockdown was needed to ‘flatten the curve’. In
her 21 March 2020 address to the nation, the Prime Minister told us “Alert Level Three is
where the disease is increasingly difficult to contain. This is where we restrict our
contact by stepping things up again. We close public venues and ask non-essential
businesses to close.”

During Auckland’s most recent double lockdowns, I have spent time reflecting on these
words: “the disease is increasingly difficult to contain.” Like many business leaders, I am
not convinced the Alert Level settings, which were put in place a year ago, are fit for
purpose for what we know now.

At the inception of these guidelines, there was much made about essential versus
nonessential businesses, with commentary levelled at our sector that we could be a
hot-bed for COVID-19 spreading throughout households via prepared food. In a year,
this has not come to pass once.

While the rest of the country has been able to get used to working from home, a
handful of sectors remain completely and utterly hamstrung by the current alert level
settings in place. These sectors – hospitality, events sector, beauty therapy, hairdressing,
tourism and some retail – are all sectors that require kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) to
turn a dollar. We are the sectors where working from home doesn’t work.

I raised this in a meeting with the Treasury back in September 2020, recommending the
Government look into creating specific, sector-led alert level guidance that could be
called upon in the event the country goes back up alert levels. Treasury asked what this
would look like in practice, so we made draft guidance for hospitality and submitted it in
November. A copy of our Draft COVID-19 Alert Level Guidance Update – Hospitality Specific
is attached.

I remain concerned that the Alert Level guidance has not been updated since its
creation: there needs to be acknowledgement that in their current form, the settings
decimate particular industries. There is no doubt the alert level system is a useful tool,
however if we are going to stick with it, it needs urgent updating.

We recommend sector-specific alert level guidance that 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, and is the kind of initiative that could have
been spearheaded by the Government over the past several months

I cannot help but reflect that the current alert level settings disrupt small businesses in
the services sector more so than any other industry. Let’s work together to review these
settings and ensure they are working for as many businesses as possible.

Hospitality operations have no ability to trade at Alert Level 4 and limited opportunity at
Level 3 – working from home is not an option. Currently, the level of restrictions
required at Level 2 adds layers of cost and compliance that further limits the ability to
trade profitably.

I am asking the Government to turn its collective mind to those few industries that
remain immobilised by the current alert level guidance. We have done the heavy lifting
for sector-specific change work, and we are asking for officials to engage with us. We
must chart a course for improvement because improvement to the alert level guidance
is necessary for business survival.

Ngā mihi nui,

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


  1. Draft Updated COVID-19 Alert Level Guidance – Hospitality Specific

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