startup support covid-19


This information pack was compiled by Startup Dunedin and tailored for Wellington-based startups by CHQ’s Lightning Lab team. If it does not answer all your questions, please let us know here what additional help you need and we will respond to you within 3–4 days.


Table of Contents

  • New Zealand Business Support Package
  • Wellington Business Support 
  • Working Remotely
  • Cash Flow
  • Your Supply Chain
  • Leave and Isolation
  • Mental Health and Well-being
  • Insurance
  • Customers
  • Events

New Zealand Business Support Package

This is uncharted territory. The past few months have seen devastating natural disasters in Aotearoa and Australia, and now, the global outbreak of COVID-19. The New Zealand Government has released a $12.1 billion package in response. One of the largest packages in the world on a per capita basis.

Who can access it?
If you’re an employer, contractor, sole trader or self-employed, you may qualify to get the COVID-19 wage subsidy.
To qualify:

  • your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • your employees must be legally working in New Zealand
  • the business must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19
  • your business must have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (See how you can work towards this one below)
  • you must make best efforts to retain employees and pay them a minimum of 80% of their normal income for the subsidised period.

For definitions of these qualifications, see the information under the ‘Definitions for Wage Subsidy qualifications

How much can you get?
The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of:

  • $585.80 for people working 20 hours or more per week
  • $350.00 for people working less than 20 hours per week.

The subsidy is paid as a lump sum and covers 12 weeks per employee.

This subsidy is for wages only. It is to help you keep your staff employed while you consider changes that may be needed while the disruption continues, and to ensure the future viability of your business.

You apply online for either the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy or COVID-19 Leave Payment – click here for more information. 
When you apply you will need to provide:

  • your IRD number   
  • your business name 
  • business address
  • the names of your employees
  • your employee IRD numbers
  • contact details for your business and your employees 

The Ministry of Social Development will be processing and approving applications as quickly as they can. They are aiming to make payments five working days after they have all the information they need from you – but this will depend on the volume of applications received.

Other NZ Government Support

For more information about wage subsidies for business and assistance with the cost of self isolation leave click here.
In addition, here are the links to the official government sites for advice on managing the impacts of COVID-19.

Central portal for all information on Covid-19

The Ministry of Health website provides information on pandemic planning and response and the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan. It currently provides the latest information on the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak.

 Employment New Zealand provides further detailed information about employment during and after disasters and workplace response to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

WorkSafe NZ provides information on Workplace preparedness for novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Wellington Business Support

Wellington business support agencies are working hard to pull together resources for businesses of all sizes across the region to access.

WellingtonNZ’s Regional Business Partners team is preparing to engage with more businesses around Wellington with an expected increase in demand. Keep an eye out for webinars on key areas such as managing cash flow in the coming weeks. 

CHQ staff are meeting one-on-one with startups and alumni of their Lightning Lab programmes. Lightning Lab is a part of the Global Accelerator Network which has sent us through. For founders looking for practical advice on remote working, capital raising or mental health during a pandemic, there are some fantastic resources here that we would highly recommend reading. 

CHQ can also help organisations and teams looking to respond to their COVID-19 challenges in an innovative way, through developing new operating models or streams of work. 

If you’re a startup exporting, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have a great set of practical resources to think about risk management and business continuity.

Working remotely

Video conferencing
Zoom is a great resource for multi-person online calling. It’s really useful to still be able to have meetings with your team and check-in throughout the day.
An alternative for Gmail users is Google Hangouts.

Team messaging
Try out Slack.
Instead of talking in person or cluttering each other’s inboxes with emails, chat on Slack. Slack is very user-friendly, private, and instant. It’s good for collaborating on different topics, and you can check in with each other on work progress, morale and mental health.

Project management
Trello is our go-to for teams to manage their projects without being in the same room as each other.
We’ll be updating the tools listed in this section as we learn more.
If you haven’t worked remotely before, you might be surprised by how much you can get done with good discipline and online tools.

Cash flow

Cash flow is the most common concern of business owners at the moment.

What are your projections? Do you have a plan?

You might want to sit down (or video chat) with your team and talk about the financial projections for your business. Make sure to adjust your projections for different scenarios. At the very least include a best-case, medium-case and worst-case scenario.

Make a plan for what actions you could take in each scenario. You can review your business against these projections at any stage and implement these plans at any time. Make sure to have a list of tasks that will need to be crossed off depending on what scenario you head towards.

It can also be worthwhile to talk to your bank once you’ve made these plans.

The government is advising businesses that they’re changing the rules around tax to help free up cash flow – and you could be eligible for some monetary support.

Check out this resource from Polson Higgs that might help you make sense of this.

Supply chain

COVID-19 is disruptive. You’re going to need to review your supply chain, and plan for different outcomes. You might not be able to get supplies from overseas sources, so it’s worth asking around now to see who you could find as a backup option. Having a little previous interaction with a local supplier could really help you secure that link if sh*t really hits the fan. Ask yourself “what would happen if X”? There could be flow-on effects you haven’t considered yet, so get your thinking cap on.

Leave and isolation

Your policies around sick leave are important right now. Have you reviewed them recently?

If any of your employees have been overseas recently, they’re required by the government to self-isolate for 14 days. You’ll need to account for that, and remember that the government has included these circumstances in its support package, so if you experience a 30% decline in revenue for any month between January and June 2020, click this link to apply for some help.

Extra assistance from the government should help you keep afloat if you’ve got wages to pay and sick leave to dish out.

There’s a helpful and informative fact sheet on this topic here.

Mental health and well-being

Start with you

Stay open and communicate about how you’re feeling. Just as you’re preparing your business for times to get worse, make sure to take measures to look after your own mental health too. New Zealanders tend to have a “get on with it” attitude, it’s part of what makes us so hard working, but don’t neglect your emotional well-being and hauora hinengaro.

Lean on the community

Your emotional and mental health is important. It is normal to feel stressed or lonely when self-isolating, but there are some things you can do to feel better.

  • Reach out to your usual supports, like family and friends, and talk about how you feel. 
  • Stick to a routine such as having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercising.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family over the phone, or social media.
  • Keep active. Physical exercise is good for your well-being, look for online classes or courses to help you do light exercise in your home.
  • Xero have some excellent webinar recordings on topics related to mental health that you can view and talk about within your team.

If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental well-being, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.


It may be a good time to keep your eye on your insurance policy. You should know what’s covered when it comes to business interruption and loss, who to contact about any issues you’re having, and when to contact them. Force majeure clauses are written for this very reason – so have a chat with your lawyer if you need to, and see what your options are.


Les Mills is a great example of a business making lemonade right now. Online classes are free for 60 days – a great product to encourage social distancing and for those in self-isolation.

How do you interface with customers? How do you communicate? Where are they coming from and what kind of marketing strategies can you employ to mitigate loss and keep things ticking along? Upfront communication about how orders may be affected is a good strategy. You should be proactive. 

Try Mailchimp if you haven’t already – this platform is awesome for sending out mass emails and information to groups.



Friday 27 March – 3 pm – Zoom


COVID-19 is a seminal challenge: we all have useful skills that can be amplified if we work together. All of us are much smarter than any of us.

Calling all NZ startups who can contribute beating #covid19! GEN NZ is running an online workshop on Friday 27 March to develop a collaborative NZ Ecosystem response. More info available here. Limited spots, book now.


If we’ve missed anything or this does not answer all your questions, please let us know here what additional help you need and we will respond to you within 3–4 days. In the meantime, stay well all! Kia kaha!

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