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Letter to the Opposition Spokesperson for Economic Development and Small Business- Anomalies across Alert Level Guidance

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31 o Hereturikōkā 2021
Hon Todd McClay
Opposition Spokesperson for Economic Development and Small Business

Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe

Anomalies across Alert Level Guidance

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy for the business sector, especially during the current Alert Level 4 lockdown. I watched the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee hearing on Thursday with interest, in particular your questions around the types of businesses that can and cannot operate at Alert Level 4 and reasons behind this.

Following the concerns you raised comparing green-grocers and butchers to local dairies, I would like to provide you with examples of how the rules are being flouted within parts of the food sector that are able to trade, and provide additional information on the inconsistencies of trade at Alert Level 4.

Operational activity that breaches guidelines

Although not explicitly advertised on websites or social media platforms, it has been brought to my attention that some establishments operating under the ‘bakery’ label have been bending restrictions and discreetly offering coffee alongside baked goods deliveries. Similarly, some bakeries are delivering goods beyond what one would reasonably deem within the ordinary operation of a bakery, such as freshly made wood-fired pizzas.

While some of these ‘bakery’ operators may consider this creative interpretation of Alert Level guidance, in reality it is nothing more than opportunistic trading that breaches guidelines. Given the vast majority of hospitality operators are completely locked out of trading at Alert Level 4, this kind of arrogant activity only heightens the exasperation felt across our sector. Those who are able to operate at Alert Level should see this as a privilege, not a right, and take steps to adhere to the guidelines or be stripped of that privilege.

Inconsistencies of trade at Alert Level 4

As was also discussed during Thursday’s Select Committee meeting, I am convinced that a range of inconsistencies regarding trade at Alert Level 4 remain.

Bakeries, for example, that sell pastries, scones and other goods are allowed to operate, yet cafés – many of whom supply the exact same goods – are not. Restaurants, bars and pubs are forced to shut shop and waste already tapped beer, meanwhile contactless delivery from outlets specialising in the sale of alcohol is permitted.

Following the first, month-long Alert Level 4 lockdown last year, many within our industry made the move to create online platforms, and establish contactless delivery capability within their businesses.

The Association is not satisfied with the Government’s reasoning that the decisions behind what businesses can and cannot operate at Alert Level 4 are to limit the number of contact points in the community. It is our view that while any open site does pose a potential health risk, this is nowhere near comparable to an over-run, overwhelmed single site, with high foot traffic. The examples you provided, of a high volume supermarket versus local butcher, or hundreds of people concentrated in one place versus a one-person-in-one-person-out system, canvassed this perfectly.

Next Steps

I will be writing to Hon David Clark to raise these concerns with the Government. I would value any additional insight you may elicit from the Government on these matters.

There is no doubt the Alert Level system is a useful tool, however if we are going to stick with it, it needs consistent application and ongoing scrutiny. To your point: if it can be safe for a dairy, it can be safe for a butcher or green-grocer. Similarly, if it can be safe for a bakery, it can be safe for a café.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or need anything further.

Ngā mihi nui,

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

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