The website SOS Cafe provides an online voucher system to help businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and a key part of what makes our West Coast towns so vibrant and great to live in,” says DWC chief executive Heath Milne.
“Many are enduring a rough ride of uncertainty at the moment, particularly those who have had to close their doors during the lockdown.”
SOS Cafe offers an avenue to help such businesses through this uncertainty. It provides a portal for regular customers and supporters to buy vouchers, for a later visit, from their favourite local businesses who are unable to earn an income during the lockdown.
The website has already raised over $500,000 for small businesses in New Zealand through vouchers to be redeemed later.
Alisha McIntosh from GATHERER Wholefoods & Bar in Hokitika is one of the West Coast businesses already listed on the website.
“I am so grateful for David Downs and his team of generous volunteers for this online platform to help small business get through these unprecedented times,” Alisha says.
“We have already seen support from some beautifully generous regulars, locals, and even people on the other side of the world - wanting to help us remain open for their family who live in Hokitika.
“Any small business can register to be a part of this fantastic initiative; you don’t have to be a café. By doing so friends, you are wisely giving your business a greater chance of being there on the other side.”
View West Coast businesses which you can support: https://soscafe.nz/collections/west-coast
Or suggest a local business to join SOS Cafe: https://bit.ly/2yoKaK9
Last week Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced that the Government and industry will be working together on a plan to restart tourism in a post-COVID-19 world.
DWC’s tourism team are also looking at the future of tourism on the West Coast and how we can adjust to a very different visitor profile in the future.
We are evaluating and revising short, medium and long term tourism initiatives for the West Coast.
We are currently consulting with tourism operators on a proposed domestic campaign to launch once travel restrictions have lifted in New Zealand. We are also in discussions with Christchurch NZ on a wider domestic campaign.
Work is currently underway to establish a Tourism Recovery Group that will focus on a Destination Management Plan for the region.
The impact of the lockdown has turned our economy upside down, causing significant cashflow issues for many in our business community.
At DWC we are looking at what we can do to help support businesses through this difficult time. If your business is experiencing cashflow issues at present, but will be viable post-lockdown, get in touch with us so we can discuss your specific situation.
With the lockdown, we estimate that around 50 percent of our workforce are still able to work in some capacity - whether remotely or as ‘essential workers’. However, this leaves 8,114 Coasters who under current circumstances can’t work at all.
The inability to operate and uncertainty of when business will return to normal is obviously very challenging. And this is coming on the back of an already difficult financial year for many businesses, which saw disruptions from the Waiho Bridge washout, the Omoto slip and the partial closure of SH6 in December.
We are working closely with businesses to make sure they are accessing all the available forms of support.
The Ministry of Social Development is doing a great job with the Wage Subsidy scheme, which many Coast businesses have already accessed. These subsidies provide some much-needed breathing room, but we recognise for some businesses this isn’t enough to see them through the immediate situation.
Some of the businesses we are talking with are already seeking professional advice from accountants and lawyers, and looking at cashflow forecasting to determine how long they can last with no income and whether their business will be viable in the future or whether they will have to close shop permanently.
Others are beginning to think ahead on how they can rebuild and relaunch once the lockdown is removed.
We strongly encourage businesses experiencing immediate cashflow issues to contact us to discuss their circumstances. Our staff are also busy reaching out to local businesses to offer support. We are here to help.
Media Release: 8 April 2020
The Government's wage subsidy is available to employers, contractors, sole traders, NGOs and incorporated societies that are significantly impacted by COVID-19.
If eligible, employers would be paid $585.80 per week for full-time staff and $350 for part-time. They will be paid in a lump sum. The support will be available for 12 weeks.
Businesses must have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and must make their best efforts to retain employees and pay them a minimum of 80% of their normal income for the subsidised period.
The form is very simple, and the expectation is that payments will be expedited quickly. You must provide the following information:
- Your IRD number.
- Your business name.
- Your business address.
- Your New Zealand Business Number (NZBN).
- The names of your employees.
- Your employee IRD numbers.
- Contact details for your business and your employees.
More information: Work and Income
As we enter our second week of lockdown, many of us are adjusting to the new normal of working remotely, while others have been unable to work in any capacity.
Based on insights from Infometrics and Stats NZ, we estimate that out of our 16,263 strong workforce, 8,149 Coasters are still working in some form - either working remotely or as ‘essential workers’.
This means under lockdown around half of our workforce is currently unable to work in any capacity. The worst hit sectors are Accommodation and Food services with a possible 1,767 people currently unable to work, Construction: 1,452, Manufacturing: 925 and Retail trade: 769.
For many Coast businesses this inability to operate is having a dramatic toll - not just on their business but on their wellbeing.
At DWC, our staff are busy working with local businesses through their current needs and exploring how we can more directly support businesses through this difficult time. We are also working on strategies and projects to get the Coast economy back on its feet once the lockdown is lifted.
In other news, the West Coast will be receiving Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) support of $2.08m to run a Te Ara Mahi project - ‘The West Coast Regional Employment Scheme’ which will be run with support from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). The government recognises the need for continued support for the region and the Provincial Development Unit has been instrumental in getting this project across the line.
This will be an employment and training programme targeted at skill shortage areas across the Coast. The programme will fit West Coast businesses seeking to create new positions with specific training tailored to jobs, as well as the upskilling of existing employees to new positions. Under the scheme businesses will be able to apply for subsidies to help create new jobs and take on additional workers.
Another project we are working on, in conjunction with MSD and other regional development agencies, is setting up a regional employment hub to facilitate getting available workers into much-needed employment once the lockdown is lifted.
Our tourism team is also hard at work formulating a domestic tourism campaign for when travel restrictions are lifted. There is also a large piece of work to be carried out looking at the future of tourism on the West Coast and how we can adjust to a very different visitor profile in the future.
We need to ensure our economy is in the best possible position to get up and running once the lockdown is removed.
As the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving, so too is the Government’s response to businesses. There are a number of Government support packages aimed at addressing short-term cashflow needs, with further support packages potentially in the pipeline.
Applications are now open at Retail Banks for the Government’s Business Finance Guarantee Scheme for small and medium-sized businesses. And a new leave scheme for essential workers will be available from Monday.
Please let us know what you are experiencing so we can continue to advocate to Government on your behalf.
This is a very challenging time for many in our business community, but I want to reassure you the team at DWC is here to support you and advocate for you. If you need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Media Release: 2 April 2020