More than five thousand Auckland businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns have now received support from the Activate Tāmaki Makaurau business support package since registrations opened on 1 December 2021.

The $60m business support package announced by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Small Business in October 2021  is administered by Auckland Unlimited in partnership with the region’s business support network, and supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Auckland Unlimited Director Investment & Industry Pam Ford says more than $17m in business support has been allocated as the organisation helps Auckland’s regional economic recovery.

“We’re pleased to see such a high number of businesses connecting with industry experts to help navigate the challenges COVID-19 has caused, and we’re hearing firsthand the impacts this support is having across businesses throughout Tāmaki Makaurau, and the positive changes in behaviour it’s creating.

Activate Tāmaki Makaurau assists Auckland small-to-medium-sized businesses facing the many uncertainties and impacts caused by COVID-19 to navigate the current environment, build more resilient businesses, navigate tough decisions and seize future opportunities and productivity gains. 

Auckland businesses were invited to access up to $3000 +GST worth of one-to-one expert business advice. Implementation Grants of up to $4000+GST help businesses access industry experts with the tools and know-how to put business plans, often created through previously accessing Business Advice, into action.

With demand high and funding limited, registrations were closed to businesses on 17 February for Business Advice and 24 February for implementation grants. Registrations received prior to those dates continue to be processed.

Businesses work with their preferred service provider, from a community of over 1100 expert providers, many themselves small-to-medium-sized Auckland businesses. Auckland Unlimited, Whāriki - Māori Business Network and Amotai worked closely together to identify and enable nearly 80 Māori service providers to deliver services to Māori businesses.

Māori businesses make up over 1200 and Pacific businesses over 1000 of the 12,000-plus businesses registered for Business Advice and Implementation Grants.

Auckland's GDP was reduced by more than $3.5 billion over the first 12 months of the pandemic, compared to only $500 million for the rest of New Zealand. The return to lockdown in August 2021 was another major shock to the regional economy, with Auckland's GDP falling nearly $3 billion in the September quarter[1]. The impact across the rest of New Zealand was comparatively marginal due to moving out of Alert Levels 4 and 3 within a few weeks. Data from the 2020 Business Operations Survey shows small businesses were less likely to be able to operate at Alert Levels 4 and 3 than larger businesses, so the impact on them was greater[2].  

The First Steps programme provides access to health and wellbeing support tailored to the many business owners across Tāmaki Makaurau that are feeling overwhelmed, isolated and under pressure from the mental and emotional impact of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. It is led by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce as part of Activate Tāmaki Makaurau.

Auckland Business Chamber Chief Executive Michael Barnett is unsurprised about the demand from businesses for health and wellbeing support.

“We’re seeing a high demand for support around stress management, and this tells us business owners are recognising that their effective management of personal health and wellbeing is crucial to them successfully leading teams throughout tough circumstances and navigating the impacts of COVID-19.

“The First Steps website has had over 22,000 visitors to date, and we’re able to offer these businesses not only therapy from registered psychologists, but also resources they can continue accessing on an ongoing basis, and, if they wish, share directly with their employees.”

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) has created the Activate Tāmaki Makaurau Business Community, an online platform enabling Auckland businesses to share and connect with other businesses facing the same challenges and operating within the same constraints, region, and industries.

EMA Chief Executive Brett O’Riley says “Giving Auckland businesses the independence to research and access the type of support they need, at their own pace and in their own time is also an important element of Activate Tāmaki Makaurau.

“The Business Community provides instant access to free tools, resources, and events, and provides a platform for businesses to connect with fellow businesses seeking to overcome challenges like their own.”

Since launching, over 3200 business operators had subscribed, and 49 events, such as ‘Managing the impacts of Omicron on your business with MBIE, Ministry of Health and EMA’ have been hosted with almost 600 attendees. To date, over 3000 businesses have downloaded resources or viewed key video content including ‘Discovering the True Value of Your Business’ and ‘Business Continuity Planning’.

To reach Auckland’s diverse business community, including Māori and Pacific businesses, Auckland Unlimited is working with the wider business support network in the region, including Amotai, Auckland Business Chamber, Business Events Industry Aotearoa, Employers & Manufacturers Association, Heart of the City, Hospitality New Zealand, Restaurant Association, Retail New Zealand, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Whāriki - Māori Business Network, Pacific Business Trust, and Regional Business Partner Network. Collectively, these organisations represent many small to medium-sized businesses across the Auckland regional economy.

Businesses keen to access First Steps can find out more information here, and the Activate Tāmaki Makaurau Business Community can be accessed here.

1 Infometrics
2 Stats NZ 2020 Business Operations Survey