Ready to reopen . . . Among those getting back to work in Waitaki on Wednesday were (centre) Daily Grind owner and barista Keegan Wilson; (clockwise from top left) Badger & Mackerel staff (from left) Tenaka Osborne, Kodi Gillan, and owner Bevan Smith; Whitestone Contracting Ltd operator Georgia Campbell; The Florist owner Leigh Steel; and Housekeepers Design owner Sally-Ann Donnelly. PHOTOS: RUBY HEYWARD/KAYLA HODGE/REBECCA RYAN

Geared up and ready to go.

On Wednesday, several Waitaki businesses were able to reopen to the public, providing contactless services, after the overnight alert level drop. South of Auckland, New Zealand moved to Covid-19 Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday.

For many businesses, the transition meant dragging out old partitions and dusting off contactless systems from last year’s lockdown.

Tees Street cafe owner Yanina Tacchini said as well as already having the equipment this time, she also had a sense of preparation, having experienced Level 3 before.

“We know what we are doing and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Mrs Tacchini said.

Badger & Mackerel owner Bevan Smith said it was much easier to get into the swing of Level 3 this time. For Mr Smith and his employees, it was a relief to get out of the house and see some familiar faces.

For both cafes, opening in Level 3 was less about profit than it was about providing a service for the community and seeing their regular customers.

In fact, it was hard to make a profit under the circumstances, Mrs Tacchini said.

Harbour Street Bakery co-owner Kristy Gourdie was happy to reopen on Wednesday but she was also anxious about how long the Government’s wage subsidy would last.

“It’s a relief but at the same time there’s a sense of uncertainty … how long will they keep the government support going?

“I worry about the other small businesses.”

But the great support the bakery had received from the community was reassuring, she said.

With the fate of small businesses also on her mind, Rose’s General Store & Information owner Wendy Simpson created a list of local businesses that were back up and running in Level 3 to share with the community.

Mrs Simpson, like many other business owners, had a burst of online orders and was also offering a contactless service from her Tyne St premises from Wednesday.

For The Florist owner Leigh Steel, it was business as usual, with most of her orders made remotely under normal circumstances.

Upon reopening on Wednesday, Mrs Steel had a surge in orders for “missed occasions”.

People were eagerly ordering flowers for loved ones who were celebrating their birthdays.

“They can’t be near them, but they can say it with flowers.”

Mrs Steel was ecstatic to be open, and even happier Level 4 only lasted two weeks.

”We have to be grateful for that.”

Oamaru Business Collective chairwoman Cara Tipping Smith said Level 3 was tough for a lot of businesses and “the more we can get out and support them, absolutely, the better”.

The Safer Waitaki economic development working group met on Wednesday to share local business information. The group is made up of Safer Waitaki, economic development and Tourism Waitaki staff, and representatives from the business community, the Oamaru Business Collective, the Chamber of Commerce and Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Ms Tipping Smith said a range of issues were raised, including cashflow challenges, immigration, visa and employment issues, funding reserves and opportunities, economic development, tourism, destination management and support for local business owners.

“This kind of coming together helps us all better understand what businesses are dealing with at the coal face of Covid lockdowns.

“We aim to be able to pull more levers more quickly to resolve local challenges, both immediate and longer term.”