Wellington businesses caught up in the protest against the anti-vaccine mandate are calling for targeted support in the face of rising abuse and a drop of up to 70% in sales.
Trade association Retail New Zealand said the abuse, assaults and disruption caused by protesters must stop.
Sales had already fallen by 30% in Wellington due to the red alert level, and the protest had reduced sales “by at least 70%”, the association’s chief executive, Greg Harford, said in a press release sent by e-mail.
The protest splits into two groups as police make another round of arrests on the grounds of Parliament.
In an interview, Harford said anecdotal data had been collected from capital firms as far away from Parliament that Featherston and Willis St. Foot traffic had reduced significantly, and many firms could not switch to live service. line, he said.
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“The feedback we’re getting is that customers are generally reluctant to go to CBD…we see it going well beyond Parliament.”
The protest had compounded the general effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the impacts of the red alert level setting.
“It will take months, even years, to recover for some companies.”
Some businesses could close altogether due to constant abuse, and weary staff quit their jobs for greener pastures in other industries, he said.
A plan was needed to support continued retail operations in the city over the next few days, Harford said.
And protesters in Parliament continued to hamper the lives of Wellingtonians. A man struggled to get to his hospital appointment on Wednesday morning because his car was blocked by the protest.
Wellington City Council Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward Councilor Nicola Young said she received a “distressed” email from a very ill middle-aged resident of Kate Sheppard Pl, opposite Parliament, who tried to get his car out of the garage but couldn’t because of a truck that was part of the protest. Taxis could not come to the blocked street.
He ended up having to walk through the protesters and asked a friend to pick him up, Young said. “Some of these people are very intimidating…It’s not fair, and it’s not fair.”
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said the protest was having a “serious impact” on businesses in the city.
“People stay away from [central city] due to the protests, businesses have to close for safety reasons, and we have seen people prevented from taking public transport to get home safely.
“Protesters absolutely have the right to demonstrate – as an advocacy organization ourselves, we value vocal participation in democratic debate. But they call it peaceful and instead bully business owners and their staff.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said council wanted its streets reclaimed and Parliament grounds cleared. It was less clear how and when this would happen.
“We don’t have a private army, we need the police to run this. Issuing parking tickets does not move vehicles,” he said.
“When you have protesters abusing businesses and bystanders, that’s not acceptable,” he said.