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Covid-19: Finance Minister says businesses to shift to 'safe' economic activity under alert level 3

Apr 15, 2020

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson says the focus for businesses will move away from "essential" economic activity to what is "safe" under alert level three.

Robertson made his comments in a speech to Business New Zealand this afternoon.

It follows an announcement made earlier today that small businesses will get a $3 billion boost through tax breaks to help them ride out the impending economic crisis.

Robertson broke down the response to the Covid-19 crisis in three waves; fight the virus and cushion the blow, kickstart the economy, and reset and rebuild the economy.

The government's response was not about distinct phases that followed one after the other, he said.

"They are waves that are all under way at once, lapping over and under each other," he said.

"Much of the work we have done and continue to do on the first phase - cushioning the blow and fighting the virus - will continue in the coming months."

Guidance will be released tomorrow to give businesses and workers a better idea of what the more medium-term picture looked like ahead of coming out of alert level 4, he said.

The government was taking lessons from the swift move into alert level 4, and aimed to give as much clarity in advance as possible, he said.

"What I can say now is that our emphasis at level 3 moves from 'essential' economic activity to 'safe' economic activity," he said.

Roberston said he was aware of the changes that businesses were undertaking to operate in as safe a way as possible and to allow as much economic activity as possible.

However, he noted the primary factor that Cabinet would consider when deciding to leave alert level 4, would be whether the Director-General of Health was confident that the disease was under control.

He again emphasised that this year's budget on 14 May would be one of recovery to kick-start the economy.

"It will include funding for the cost pressures that are necessary part of keeping our country ticking over, but we will devote much of our resources to kickstarting this recovery," he said.

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