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Ngatea road upgrade worse than Covid-19 shutdown

Ongoing roadworks in Ngatea have been more damaging to business than the four-week Coronavirus Covid-19 shutdown, a business owner says.

Delays in renewing the town’s main street have been devastating for business owners, with some having to close their doors and lay off staff. The project originally involved a two-week road closure in January but unexpected strengthening work meant the road was closed for close to five weeks.

Work halted during the shutdown but resumed on April 28 under Alert Level 3. However, delays and restrictions due to the Covid-19 shutdown means work won’t be complete until mid-June and pavement and final surfacing won’t be finished until summer.

Ngatea Hammer Hardware owner Chris Spilsbury said he had to lay off one staff member because the roadworks had badly impacted trade, but he was able to retain his remaining six staff during the Covid-19 Level 4 shutdown because of the government wage subsidy.

“We’re coping with the shutdown better than the road,” he said.

“The Covid lockdown’s been easier because we’ve had financial support from the government and so you don’t have to focus on your staff, and you don’t have the incomings and the outgoings to worry about, whereas during the roading, in two weeks alone we were 30 per cent down and we had staff to think about and pay, and stock to pay for.”

Income had dropped about 50 per cent due to the roadworks and Covid-19 shutdown, he said. 

“We won’t recover this financial year. This financial year is a complete write-off for us as a business. It is basically doing what we can to continue trading and then focussing on the next financial year to actually get some sort of normality back to our life.”

Lack of communication from New Zealand Transport Agency and Hauraki District Council impacted trading more than necessary because it made it difficult to plan, he said.

“Communication is the part that has been one of the largest frustrations from everybody in the business network.”

NZTA Waikato System Manager Cara Lauder said NZTA and Hauraki District Council provided the community with regular updates before the Level 4 lockdown.

Covid-19 restrictions meant face-to-face meetings could no longer be held, but updates at least twice a week would be shared via email, on the council Facebook page and through local radio, she said.

“We invite people to share any ideas they might have for other ways we can reasonably keep the community informed within Covid-19 Alert Level 3 guidelines, by emailing,” she said.

“We would encourage local businesses to continue to use this email address to seek any information or clarification they may require for their plans to operate under Alert Level 3.”