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United efforts to help Tairāwhiti recover

4 May 2020

United efforts to help Tairāwhiti recover

Tairāwhiti community leaders are uniting in their efforts to ensure the region has the best possible chance of a strong economic recovery post COVID-19.

Leading the charge is Tairāwhiti Rau Tipu Rau Ora – the Regional Recovery Governance Group, comprising Gisborne District Council’s mayor alongside chairs from Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust, Te Aitanga a Mahaki , Tāmanuhiri Tūtū Poroporo Trust, Hauora Tairāwhiti, Trust Tairāwhiti and Eastland Group.  But there is also a lot of work being done across the rohe to help ease the financial burden of many.

 Trust Tairāwhiti is doing amazing things to support businesses, says Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann.

“We will be working with them to promote initiatives such as the Let’s Shop Tairāwhiti! initiative. The economic impact on Tairāwhiti from COVID-19 cannot be underestimated, and in light of this Council recently agreed to increase our rates remissions by $1M and further reduce the proposed rates increase for the year.”

Rates relief is available to businesses and households and those needing help. 

Parking is currently free throughout the city and will continue to be assessed. 

“We are also looking at ways we can fast track the central business district planning rules to enable potential development and make it easier to do business here”.

Trust Tairāwhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy says at times like this it was key to be nimble and recognise the need to be action-orientated to get initiatives happening quickly.

“Support mechanisms need to come together promptly for our businesses and community groups. It’s time for us all to think about our communities most effected, shop local and come together as a region in this time of need.”  

The Trust had quickly stepped in to help with “significant and increased” funding to support businesses through its Regional Business Partner Programme.

Mr Murphy says the support is just the beginning, with more funding and programmes likely to be announced in the coming weeks aligning with the Trust’s wellbeing focus and ongoing assistance with regional applications to seek Provincial Growth Fund and Crown Infrastructure partners funding opportunities.

Trust Tairāwhiti has had more than 100 responses to its regional business survey covering construction, retail, ICT, education, primary industries, manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and professional services, with each identifying their key areas of concern.

Unsurprisingly the biggest worry for businesses was the reduction in customers, followed by short term cash-flow.

“We will be continuing to develop wood processing in our region, particularly those with significant employment outcomes, diversification of markets and environmental outcomes alongside the current export log focus,” says Mr Murphy.

His team are re-visiting and updating domestic tourism destination marketing and development plans with iwi partners, operators and industry bodies.

“Based on our already strongly focused domestic market, when appropriate we want to make sure we beat other regions back to market on this while continuing to develop these plans on the basis of the authentic, cultural depth of story we have to tell here.”

The Trust are aware over 400  Tairāwhiti businesses have been paid in excess of $30 million in wage subsidies to more than 3800 employees. The bulk of those have come from professional services, retail, hospitality and construction sectors and are estimated to represent between 20-50% of local business.

Some businesses, however, will not recover with a number already signalling they won’t be able to come out of this at all.

Let’s Shop Tairāwhiti! is an initiative by the Trust to offer as much assistance as possible to give local businesses a vibrant social media platform. It has quickly gained traction with 2384 followers. So far it features over 120 local businesses, highlighting their products and services.

It was initially set up so the community could easily access essential items through the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown but has continued to evolve to showcase the businesses and the people behind them.

City centre vibrancy manager Lana Davy says she’s had excellent feedback on the impact the exposure has had on some businesses.

“I think ensuring we have a great understanding of how our businesses are operating and coping in this unknown environment is so very important to the economic recovery of our region,” said Ms Davy.