'Be strong, be kind, we will be OK' – PM's message in face of coronavirus impact

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's message to New Zealanders today in the face of the economic challenges from the worldwide coronavirus outbreak was to "be strong, but be kind".

"We will be OK."  

Today, the Government announced a  massive $12.1 billion business package , with an $8.7 billion injection into business and jobs including wage subsidies and tax changes, $2.8 billion for a permanent boost to benefits and doubling the Winter Energy Payment, and $500 million into health. It comes as the Finance Minister told Parliament a recession "is now almost certain" due to coronavirus. 

"There is huge uncertainty out there right now," Ms Ardern said. "But one thing I am certain of: We are a nation that has been shaped because of our experiences and they often have been tough, harsh and unpredictable.

"That is when New Zealanders are at their best. That is when we rally, when we look after one another, when we care for the most vulnerable."

Ms Ardern said the large-scale impact of coronavirus was reflected in the business package, and it was created with a "lens" of being about people. 

"Our response right now - in the wake of what is a global pandemic and economic issue the likes we have never seen before - will put first and foremost, people.

"In unprecedented times, comes unprecedented decisions."

She said the border decision on Saturday, which imposed a 14-day self-isolation period for all travellers entering New Zealand except from the Pacific Islands, "will have an impact" on areas such as tourism.  

"So many of our employers rely on that." 

The package was intended to "give maximum support so we can to try and keep people in work as businesses look to re-orientate, to prepare to focus on what the future will hold and what would be a new normal for New Zealand".

"We are a nation who prepares... just in case we had a rainy day, and we did.

"I have not seen a nation in the world put up a package of this quantum, and that is because we recognise our situation is particular. We are an island nation who trades, exports, imports, who relies in many quarters on tourism and that is why we have gone hard on this business package."

She said the doubling of the Winter Energy Payment was a "practical" move "because that goes to over 65s who we must keep well this winter". 

The increase to benefits was due to "if you want to stimulate economy you give extra support to those on the lowest incomes because they spend it".

"That is what our economy needs right now."

National Party leader Simon Bridges criticised what he called the Government's "confused and muddled priorities" in its coronavirus relief package.

"How much does health get? Half a billion dollars," he said. "That doesn’t cover the deficits at the DHBs today. It seems to me you haven't put people in New Zealand first in this budget."