Report highlights COVID-19 impacts on Waikato district

10 June 2020

A report received by Waikato District Council’s Strategy and Finance Committee today clearly highlights the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on Waikato district businesses and the community.

The report provides detailed insights and analysis as we move into COVID-19 Alert Level 1 this week.

It was important for Council to ramp up throughout lockdown, not slow down, Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson says. 

“We know that the effects of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, has touched all parts of the district and economy. This is why it was important for Council to not only provide a vital Civil Defence and essential service role during the pandemic, but to get out there and speak with our communities about how they’re doing. With this important knowledge we will be in a better position to support and help the district through the recovery phase of COVID-19.”

Throughout April and May, Council completed over 800 household and business surveys, and together with sources from the Ministry of Social Development, NZ Police, Infometrics and its own data, Council knows that:

  • 83% of businesses have accessed the wage subsidy;
  • 90% of businesses reported that they were in ‘okay’ or better health pre-lockdown;
  • Effects of the drought, commodity prices, and export hurdles have negatively impacted the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors;
  • 63% of households have reported a drop in income, some as much as a total loss;
  • Job Seeker benefit numbers have grown by 25%.  Compared to other local authorities in New Zealand, the Waikato district is in the middle of the pack;
  • 47% of new ‘job-seekers’ are first time beneficiaries showing that many different types of workers have been affected;
  • Crime rates are increasing;
  • Building consent numbers (construction activity) for the first quarter of 2020 remain strong relative to previous periods however resource consents in the district have been gradually falling since a peak in mid-2018.

Strategy and Finance Committee chair Janet Gibb that although the report highlighted that there were large numbers of people in the community doing it tough, it was pleasing to see that a large portion of households and businesses were positive about the future.

“From the survey, 71% of households told us they weren’t concerned about their job security and 43% of businesses expected business to return to pre-lockdown levels. This shows the spirit of the Waikato district. We’re a tough bunch and I know that together, we will get through this,” she says.

Councillor Gibb was also happy to see that the most businesses and residents contacted as part of the survey were pleased to hear from Council during this time. “Being able to be there for our communities during this time and helping them through these next stages will be vitally important. We will do what we can to be there for you,” she says.

Waikato District Council Analytics Manager Dr Mark Davey notes that while the wage subsidy scheme will be providing a ‘false economy’ for some time, the data already shows that even with the subsidy, the effects on businesses and households are widespread and this shouldn’t be forgotten by Council in the days and weeks to come.

“The effects are likely to come in waves over the next 12-24 months as the various sectors of the economy are impacted differently from things such as a reduction in customers, reduction in global demand and commodity prices, supply chain issues, on-going effects from the droughts and liquidity. Consumer, household and business confidence remains key to enable a speedy recovery,” he says.

Council intends to do this household and business survey again soon.

The full report can be found on Council’s website as part of the Strategy and Finance Committee agenda here.

ENDS

Media can contact:
Teresa Hancock
Senior Communications & Engagement Advisor
Waikato District Council
027 706 5776
communications@waidc.govt.nz