National MP asks about predicted 's**t fight' over commercial rents

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

An exchange in Parliament today led to National's economic spokesperson asking about a Rotorua bar operator's prediction that there would be a "huge s**t fight" over commercial rents. 

During today's Covid-19 select committee, Reg Hennessy told MPs that unless the Government steps in to help commercial tenants and landlords who had no cashflow with rent, "we're heading for one huge shit fight".

"The only winners out of this will be the commercial lawyers... We have had no income since lockdown."

When asked by chair Simon Bridges how he was paying for rent and utilities, Mr Hennessy said he was "paying out of funds already obtained by the business" and that having to take out a loan "was not far away". 

On how long the business could last, he said that if it were to continue for another month, "things start getting quite tight". 

Today during Question Time, National's Paul Goldsmith asked Finance Minister Grant Robertson if Mr Hennessy's "s**t fight" prediction concerned him, as "small businesses struggle to cope with substantial ongoing costs but zero revenues". 

"We're well aware that for many small businesses, having no revenue has been a huge struggle," Mr Robertson said.

"That's what the wage subsidy scheme was about, and it's why it was paid as a 12-week upfront lump sum, in order for businesses to be able to plan. We continue to work with small businesses on what else we can do."

Mr Goldsmith asked if it was fair "that small business operators have been told by the Government to close in the national interest, yet, they should be taking so much of the economic pain on behalf of the entire community?"

"It's been the recognition from the Government from day one that we all needed to work together to be able to get through this," Mr Robertson said.

"That's why we are very pleased by the fact that more than $10 billion has gone out the door to support businesses and workers. It's why another $12 billion worth of support via the tax system, the business loan guarantee scheme, and many other initiatives have been put in place as well."

When asked about the commercial rent issues today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that if some commercial landlords that do not come to an arrangement with its tenants "may end up a position where you may find yourself with a vacant property (in a) time it will be very, very difficult to lease". 

"I will keep them keep continually reminding people, make sure you make the most of the tax provisions that we put up to help with cash flow issues, make sure you use the wage subsidy, talk to your bank and talk to your landlord."

"In the meantime as a Government we will keep looking and assessing what we can do to keep those businesses operating and keep people employed."