Tough times loom ahead but Wellington’s high number of Government workers means it is likely to weather the coronavirus storm better than most.
That is the assessment of WellingtonNZ’s boss and a new report from Greater Wellington Regional Council.
While report comes with optimistic predictions for the capital city, they are only in comparison to the rest of New Zealand. Parts of the greater Wellington region can also expect to be hit harder.
Unemployment will soar, tourism will plummet, and spending will be down — and that is under the best case of three scenarios painted by the report.
WellingtonNZ chief executive Lance Walker said many of the report’s findings mirrored what he was predicting.
“It is true that because of our strength in the public sector, professional services and the knowledge based economy we may be able to recover more quickly in some cases,” he said.
But areas including retail, tourism, film, international education, hospitality, accommodation, and events, were severely impacted.
“The ability for those sectors to recover will largely be dependent on the timing of decisions around the alert levels and the restrictions imposed at each level — including domestic travel.
“The one thing all sectors would benefit from is certainty around timings so that they can plan accordingly. “
The one shining light in the regional council report comes in the impact the pandemic has on the environment. The impact on air quality and climate change was expected to be positive, even under the shortest-possible shutdown period.
But even here the news was tempered: “Social distancing requirements have ceased recycling operations in the Wellington region, which may have an impact on good recycling practices among communities.
“Pest management and trapping programmes have not been able to operate during lockdown, which could have flow on effects. The biggest ongoing risk to our environment will emerge from our response activities.”
In a statement, the regional council said the document suggested the downturn could be less severe in the Wellington region because of its high levels of employment in social services and businesses working with or for government.
However, regional council chairman Daran Ponter said such optimism should be treated cautiously.
“It’s a discussion document written in a quickly changing environment, but it notes that with a backbone of professionals making up around 43 per cent of the regional workforce, we may just be spared the worst.”
Many of Wellington’s services were regarded as essential and could be delivered from home, meaning much of the workforce could ride it out.
“Outside of Wellington city, many of the region’s small to medium businesses will financially suffer from the terrible disruption which will be caused by Covid-19, particularly in the region’s town and city centres,” Ponter said.
Further studies would look at regional impacts.
The document looked at three scenarios for how New Zealand would come through the pandemic.
Scenario one assumed the elimination method would be largely successful and level 3 lockdown would last three week. As a result, the impact on most aspects of life, from employment to education to tourism and family wellbeing, would be less severe.
Scenario two assumes a resurgence in cases after a short time in level 3, meaning New Zealand would be put back into level 4 for three months, then levels 1 and 2 for at least nine months or till there was a vaccine.
“Scenario 3 is the worst case scenario,” the report said.
“It assumes that elimination and flattening the curve strategies are not ultimately successful, forcing NZ into a prolonged period of fluctuating between level 3 and 4 measures.
“Under this scenario, the country is cumulatively in level 4 for 3 months, level 3 for 3 months and levels 1 to 2 for 6 months.”