Waitaki’s strong primary sector will help the district’s economy withstand the effects of Covid-19, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan says.
A report carried out by Infometrics estimated 60% of the Waitaki district’s workforce was able to carry on working in some way during the Level 4 lockdown.
That was largely due to the large number of people who worked in the primary sector, Mr McGowan said.
Waitaki’s percentage of the workforce operational during the lockdown was high compared with other parts of Otago was at 52% and Queenstown Lakes 38%.
Nationally, it was estimated 53% of the population was able to work from home during Level 4.
Because more people in Waitaki had continued to work and earn, there would be more money to be spent in the local economy as the country came out of lockdown, Mr McGowan said.
“It’s that discretionary spend that is going to make the difference when we come out of this.
The outlook for the primary sector was relatively good, he said.
“Prices of milk are predicted to be slightly down, but so is the dollar, so that balances out.
“Beef and lamb is still going pretty strong and there is an increased demand for that in the next wee while.”
Tourism and retail took the hardest hit from Covid-19 but Waitaki had some advantages compared with other parts of New Zealand, Mr McGowan said.
“One good thing about Waitaki is, from a tourism [perspective], it’s still largely undiscovered by many New Zealanders, so there is a great opportunity there.
“And from a retail perspective, [Waitaki] has looked after locals really well and [hasn’t] focused on that temporary dollar.”
The economic recovery would start when people were able, and felt safe, to come out, Mr McGowan said.
“Businesses would have to ensure that they create a safe environment.
“If we all start paying our bills on time .. it starts to get the money flowing through the economy.”