COVID-19 Response

There wasn’t a playbook for COVID-19, but Labour delivered a strong health and economic response that saved lives and set us up for a strong recovery. Now we’re in a stronger position to bounce back faster than most other countries.

Making the most of that headstart relies on having trusted leadership and a stable government. Labour’s five-point recovery plan is already in motion, and while there are challenges ahead, there are big opportunities too.

Labour’s plan

Labour is already rolling out our plan to keep New Zealanders safe and keep the recovery moving:

Investing in our people

We’re putting people at the heart of our plan. That’s why we are providing income support and access to training. We've:

  • Cushioned the blow with the wage subsidy that supported around 1.7 million jobs through the lockdown, and extended the wage subsidy for another eight weeks for firms and workers in especially hard-hit industries
  • Supported incomes with the COVID redundancy payment of up to $490 a week, and increased main benefits by $25 a week
  • Made apprenticeships and many trades training courses free for the next two years, saving tens of thousands of learners up to $6,500 each and giving employers a great stream of new workers

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Our recovery and rebuild is focused on getting Kiwis back to work, supporting industries, and rolling out infrastructure investment around the country to create jobs. That’s why we are:

  • Upgrading New Zealand’s crucial infrastructure like hospitals, schools, roads, and public transport so the country we rebuild is better than the one we inherited. This includes: Roads and rail to keep people safe and get people moving, like the Tauranga Northern Link, Wellington commuter rail, and Canterbury road upgrades; our neglected schools and hospitals, by providing up to $400,000 to almost every state school; child, maternity and mental health facilities; and our public services to help them become more clean and green by replacing coal heaters with clean energy in schools and hospitals
  • Delivering extra state houses, giving the building industry a good pipeline of new work
  • Supporting regions with local community projects around the country through developing a pipeline of projects with local councils, iwi, community groups and businesses. Projects funded to date include the Hawke’s Bay Aquatic Centre, the revitalisation of the Paihia waterfront, investment for Bay of Plenty flood protection, and the Unitec residential development in Auckland

Preparing for the future

This is our chance to future proof the economy and ensure we emerge with a more sustainable economy. That’s why we:

  • Are investigating clean energy projects to work towards our 100% renewable target and looking for new opportunities, like pumped hydro storage at Lake Onslow
  • Created almost 11,000 Jobs for Nature that’ll nurture our environment and improve our tourism infrastructure

Supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and job creators

Small and medium enterprises are at the heart of our economy. That’s why we’ve:

  • Continued to provide interest free loans of up to $100,000 to help businesses stay afloat
  • Refunded more than $3 billion of business tax relief to help cash flow
  • Created the Tourism Recovery Fund to help weather the storm and protect jobs

Positioning New Zealand globally

As a trading nation, we rely on international customers. That’s why we are:

  • Promoting our primary sector roadmap Fit For a Better World to accelerate the productivity, sustainability and inclusiveness of the primary sector to deliver more value for all New Zealanders
  • Providing on the ground support for Kiwi exporters in key markets to boost trade
  • Negotiating free trade agreements with the UK and EU, and further advancing the Digital Economic Partnership Agreement and the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade, and Sustainability

Labour’s response to date

The Government had a go hard, go early approach in the fight against COVID-19. We closed our borders to non-New Zealanders within three weeks of our first case. Other countries took much longer.

We went into lockdown and closed schools within four weeks of our first case, and our lockdown was stricter and more effective than most lockdowns overseas.

Grant Robertson’s Wage Subsidy Scheme has supported around 1.7 million New Zealanders to stay connected to their place of work. The subsidy was initially for 12 weeks during the lockdown, and then as an 8 week extension for businesses who were still doing it tough. The wage subsidy was available only a couple of days after our response was first put in place. It was fast and seamless and provided immediate support for workers, businesses and the economy. We were agile and made adjustments to the scheme as the situation unfolded in front of us.

A new temporary 12-week COVID-19 income relief payment was also introduced to support New Zealanders who lost their jobs, to help them adjust and find new employment or retrain. It pays up to $490 a week for previously full time workers, and up to $250 a week for previously part-time workers.

At the same time, we also provided relief for small and medium-sized businesses. We made significant changes to the tax system to boost cashflow and encourage investment. We provided low interest and interest-free loans to more than 50,000 businesses. We changed laws and regulations to help people stay in work. And we set up more business consultancy support to provide advice and help businesses get through the tough time.

We also made sure our economic response supported those New Zealanders in the most vulnerable positions. COVID-19 highlighted the level of existing inequity issues in Aotearoa, so we permanently increased main benefits across the board by $25 per week, doubled the Winter Energy Payment for 2020 and introduced a 6 month rent freeze with more protections for tenants.

We housed over 1000 vulnerable people during the COVID lockdown, and made funds available to help NGOs and community groups deliver services and support. We also bolstered the delivery of food and welfare assistance by local authorities and Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups.

There wasn’t a playbook for COVID-19, but by going hard and early – as a team of 5 million – we avoided the worst and created economic opportunities that other countries don’t have.

Now, to continue to keep New Zealanders safe, we've implemented one of the strictest quarantine systems in the world with enforced isolation, record levels of testing, and robust contact tracing. All recent cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand were identified either at the border or in our quarantine facilities.

Currently the virus is accelerating around the world. When we closed our borders there were 243,000 cases of COVID-19. Today there is close to 19 million. We will continue our focus on:

  • Maintaining a tight border with testing and quarantine facilities
  • Rolling out our surveillance strategy together with strengthening testing to allow for surge capacity
  • Strengthening and improving contact tracing system, including looking at technological options