September 30, 2021
Challenge sent out to Telco and banking sector
Challenge Sent Out to Telco and Banking Sector
COVID-19 Lockdown Reveals Ongoing Connection Inequities & SME Distress
The long duration of lockdown in Tāmaki Makaurau is unveiling internet inequity coupled with an increase in Māori business owners reporting significant challenges due to the enduring restrictions of lockdown.
Constant reports of struggling families without an internet connection needing to access online learning for their tamariki and the domino effect of Māori business owners in financial distress has prompted an immediate SOS to the private sector in Aotearoa.
Taumata Kōrero that serves a collective of 200,000 across Tāmaki Makaurau is calling on the telco and banking sectors to show compassion. It invites CEs and kaimahi Māori within their organisation to collaborate with the group on identifying practical solutions of support.
“The Telco and Banking sectors have been very quiet and invisible in supporting struggling whānau. There are so many ways that they can help them get through lockdown…Where are they?” says Huri Dennis, Chair of Taumata Kōrero.
The concerns are echoed by Rangimarie Hunia, Chief Executive of Ngati Whatua Orakei’s social development company, Whai Maia who is a member of Taumata Kōrero.
“The main issue facing Māori business owners is reduced revenue and an inability to operate through the lockdown. The impact that this is having on cashflow to meet business and personal living costs is incalculable. Sectors like the construction, hospitality, tourism, arts and design, retail and the film industry where our people are operating have been particularly worse affected,” she says.
Taumata Kōrero is challenging these sectors to do more and be deliberate, courageous, bold and open about it.
“Many of these corporates made substantial profits last year. We should not even be asking and or challenging them. The government and community groups cannot be the only ones doing the heavy lifting, they need to as well. We are a team of 5 million but 1.5 million are really hurting in Tāmaki, many are their clients,” Dennis says.
Hunia and other members report that the wage subsidy and resurgence payments have helped but many SMEs are teetering on knife edge.
“But if a business was marginal before lockdown the chances of survival lessen the longer this COVID lockdown goes on,” says Graham Pryor, Manukau Urban Māori Authority, another member of Taumata Kōrero.
In response to kai insecurity, Taumata Kōrero stood up The Māori Food Network. In two days, 25 tonne of food and essential needs was expedited to whānau across Tāmaki Makaurau. Now the Ministry of Education is deploying much awaited resources through the network directly out to communities.
“The ongoing and enduring impact of COVID-19 across the country and indeed Tāmaki Makaurau has more than a long tail, it also has four legs and running in all different directions. Those directions are not just about food poverty, vaccinations and testing, but core general survival during and after COVID,” Dennis added.
“What we are seeing out in the flaxroots is enduring difficulties experienced by whānau struggling with rent, wages, leases, business overheads, and wifi needs as they try to stay connected and afloat.”
The digital divide in particular during Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown has effectively excluded many from essential support and connecting with the outside world.