For Auckland’s city centre alone, the economic impact of the country’s response to COVID-19 has been calculated at a whopping $3.1 billion, according to a new report from independent economist Strateg.Ease.

The report, which was commissioned by Auckland business association Heart of the City, shows that even under a quick exit from Level 3, the country’s most populous city stands to lose more than 12,400 jobs and $3.1 billion of GDP by March 2021.

“The impact of losing international tourists, students and events took an early toll on these businesses and this was compounded by people working from home,” said  Viv Beck, chief executive of Heart of the City.

“The large-scale loss of customers will continue to have a severe impact, even once we get to alert Level 2.”

According to the Straeg.Ease report, it will take at least two years for the city’s economy to get back to pre-pandemic levels, which is too long for many small businesses to wait.

The city could benefit from an uptick in consumer support for local brands and businesses, however. New research shows Kiwis are placing more emphasis on these factors than they did before COVID-19, especially in the hospitality sector.

A  recent survey from Rutherford Labs revealed that being a local business is the second most important attribute for respondents when selecting a restaurant or cafe, after quality. Before the COVID-19 crisis, it was the fifth most important factor, after quality, price, location and customer service.

Southland, Whangārei and Porirua are just some of the regions and cities throughout the country that have launched campaigns to encourage residents to support local businesses.

“We want to get our locals thinking about the impact they can have when they choose to spend their money locally,” said Amanda Linsley, CEO of the Manawatū Chamber of Commerce.

“Supporting a ‘mum and dad’ business and keeping your dollars in the community can help retain businesses, grow our region and create a domino effect of local-to-local spend and support.”