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Waitaki business owners should not be afraid to ask for help, Oamaru Business Collective chairwoman Cara Tipping-Smith says.

With New Zealand suddenly plunged back into Level 4 lockdown last week, businesses were forced to close their doors with little warning, but people seemed to be faring better this time around.

“People know where to go to get help straight away this time,” Ms Tipping-Smith said.

The collective had contacted its members, sharing information about the financial support on offer, and also “local and broader messages around mental health”.

“My sense is that they’re actually feeling better this time around, in the main,” she said.

All businesses were not in the same position though, and Ms Tipping-Smith wanted to reassure people that there were plenty of groups and agencies ready and willing to help.

These included the Waitaki District Council, Civil Defence, Safer Waitaki, and the Chamber of Commerce.

The Business Collective could also “signpost” to whatever services people might need, she said.

“There is a heap of support. It’s all totally confidential, nobody will ever say anything about it.”

Government support for smaller businesses was quite clearly laid out and straightforward, and people had been here before, she said.

“They’ve already applied for the wage subsidy, so they’re not feeling that same ‘oh my God, what do I do’, and they know that they have the resurgence fund that they can access too.”

Bigger businesses with more than 50 staff, however, could be facing more of a challenge.

“Because the cost of these sorts of things, in terms of the protocols that have to be put in place, it doesn’t look like, from the information that we’ve had, that they have a lot of options .. So that would be where I would be thinking, potentially, it’s a need to take care of people.”

Rumours about businesses being in trouble were unhelpful and could cause panic in a small town. It was important people checked their facts, and did not spread misinformation about other people’s businesses, she said.

While people were in lockdown, they were presented with the perfect opportunity to vote in the Oamaru Business Collective Awards, she said.

“People have been busy. We’ve had upwards of 300 votes on the online form already, and so that says that OK, there’s a bunch of people out there going, want to support local and positive’, and are voting, which is great. I guess that’s a nice distraction too, for some people.”