Senior business leaders call for New Zealand to set a clear path out of COVID-19

Media release
By SenateSHJ
2 Mar 2021
read time
3 min to read
long straight road over small hills

A group of senior chairs and directors of major NZX companies operating in the infrastructure, retail, retirement living, commercial property, tourism, electricity, education and banking sectors have joined together to call for more openness and clarity from the Government on its plan for getting New Zealand to “COVID normal”.

The group includes Patrick Strange (Chair of Chorus NZ and Auckland Airport), Prue Flacks (Chair of Mercury Energy), Joan Withers (Chair of The Warehouse Group), Rob Campbell (Chair of SkyCity, Tourism Holdings, Summerset and Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology) and Scott St John (Chancellor of the University of Auckland and Chair of Fisher & Paykel Healthcare).

Patrick Strange said the events of the past few weeks have shown the COVID-19 virus is now firmly part of how we live and work both here in New Zealand and globally.

“While widespread vaccination will mean the pandemic phase will pass, the virus will continue to be a risk that threatens poor health outcomes and overwhelming the health system.

“As a group we share the strong desire of the New Zealand business community to support the country’s response to COVID-19 in any way we can.”

Commenting on the last year of managing COVID-19, Joan Withers said “our organisations - and many others - have spent the past 12 months working hard to protect the wellbeing of our workforces, our customers, and the wider community from the very real risks of this virus. While big businesses have the capacity to deal with the uncertainty and change, smaller businesses that we work with don’t have the same resilience. We are ready and willing to play our part in ensuring New Zealand’s long-term success in managing COVID-19 and building the resilience in New Zealand necessary to cope with potential future pandemics. We have all discussed this widely with other chairs and colleagues and believe there is widespread support across New Zealand for our approach.”

Prue Flacks said that “major New Zealand businesses would welcome the opportunity to assist the Government in its longer-term planning by providing input and expertise into its strategy for virus management. We’ve seen the open and transparent approach taken by Australia on its vaccine roll-out plan, the launch last week by the United Kingdom government of a clear plan to manage a path out of its current lockdown[1] and the ongoing success in Taiwan of avoiding lockdowns through using technology to manage home isolation. It will be beneficial for all New Zealand if the Ministry of Health and other agencies take an open and transparent approach to the development of a path towards sustainable virus management.”

Specifically, the group are asking for:

  • The status of New Zealand’s near to long-term COVID-19 strategy to be made available beyond government circles. In particular, the group would welcome a clear explanation of the key metrics, thresholds and milestones officials are tracking to judge the ongoing performance against this strategy over time.
  • The detail of New Zealand’s contracted access to vaccines, including the timing and size of each tranche of vaccines through to the ongoing vaccine purchase programme, similar to government responses overseas, and the principles which will drive the roll-out.
  • The publication of New Zealand’s testing capacity and strategy, including any plans for enhanced community, workplace and surge testing options, the inclusion of additional testing technology such as saliva PCR tests and any other changes to the testing regime as recommended by the Roche Simpson report.
  • An understanding of any future plans for a more automated approach to tracking and tracing, health passports and other technology to manage future community outbreaks and manage the vaccine roll out.
  • The status of the government’s plan to develop the ‘world’s smartest border’[2] to enable New Zealand business to reconnect with critical overseas customers, international students to return and to allow friends and family to reconnect in Australia and the Pacific Islands through safe travel zones.

“Across the business and community sector we have seen first-hand the financial impact of this virus on people’s lives. While as a country we have avoided the devastating health consequences seen overseas, we do need to equip ourselves for a future in which we are continuing to manage COVID-19 long-term,” said Rob Campbell.

“We are positive about what has been achieved to date. We are all keen and committed to bringing our collective expertise to assist the Government in working for the longer-term benefit of all New Zealanders and look forward to the government’s response.”

[1] COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 UK Government (2021)

[2] See reference in Grant Robertson’s April 2020 speech 

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