Coronavirus: NZ to ease lockdown

20 April 2020

New Zealand is to lift its lockdown next week in a move which will provide a boost for the country’s non-food export manufacturers who were forced to shut their doors.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the lockdown would be downgraded to alert level three on 27 April.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said easing the lockdown would allow many more businesses to resume operating, such as those in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

It was not yet clear how the change would affect all sectors but Ardern said any business that opened would have to ensure it could comply with distancing laws.

Prior to the decision, industry bodies for non-food export manufacturers said they faced “irreversible losses” unless the government let them restart production as soon as possible.

Metals New Zealand, the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association (WPMA) and Plastics New Zealand, which collectively represent more than 700 non-food manufacturing firms, had called on the government to give them similar treatment to food manufacturing counterparts.

Jon Tanner, CEO of the WPMA said: “We need to see the same support for non-food export manufacturers, who also have essential overseas supply chains.

“Rather than blanket closure, we want the government to give these businesses the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to manage infection risk.”

In a joint statement representing the three manufacturers’ bodies, Tanner added that the viability of exporters was rapidly diminishing every day as they could not deliver to essential supply chains.

“Their customers will very soon be forced to find alternative suppliers with major implications for their operations and ultimately New Zealand’s economic recovery,” he said.

New Zealand’s strict lockdown has attracted plaudits from abroad but some criticism domestically as unexpected disruptions to the supply chain occur.

Two weeks ago, flour manufacturers complained they were unable to complete production due to a shortage of bags, manufacturing of which was not considered to be an essential industry.

Bronze foundry AW Frasers in Christchurch, which exports 90% of its product to the US, China, Japan, Germany, Australia and the UK said within 12 hours of shutting down operations, it had received urgent requests from utilities for essential service maintenance requirements.

However it said as it takes 10 hours to shut down the plant and 10 hours to start up again, it is unable to open simply to fulfil essential maintenance orders.

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