Coronavirus: "I really need to find work," laid-off Northland worker says

By D'Angelo Martin

Black Heart Holdings Limited, a small agricultural machinery leasing company in Kawakawa in Ngāti Hine rohe, has been struggling with business ever since the Covid-19 outbreak started. The small business originally had eight staff operating the logging trucks but that number has now been cut down to two. 

Michael Pomare Johnson worked for the company but feels relieved that he has a part-time job to cover him for now.

"I live with my Nan, my mum's there too and my sisters are there too. It's just a bit hard not making enough money for all of us."

Johnson recently visited WINZ to seek another avenue of financial support and went back to visit them again this afternoon.

"Money-wise, just for bills, food and general things," he says.

"I've been looking for jobs here and there. I really need to find work."

Black Heart Holdings Limited's Alec Critchfield says, "We have a sawmill here, we're trying to get that up and running to provide a service in the milling side."

It has been two weeks since Johnson and everyone in his field of work was laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak. And for Black Heart Holdings Limited, who were established in 2014, they have never experienced anything like this in their entire time being in business.

"It's pretty dead at the moment, we've never been in a situation like this. I'm thinking long term I don't think it'll heal very quickly," Critchfield says.

As a result, Critchfield holds himself accountable as he cannot provide work for his staff.

"It's not a good feeling to be quite honest, we don't give a toss about ourselves, I do bear the responsibility to try and keep bread and butter on our employees' tables."

Currently, there are only two fulltime truck drivers that are able to still operate, Critchfield says he is very worried for the future of his business.