Ardern talks down NZ journey bubble in 2020

In her first major address since re-election, Jacinda Ardern said her top priorities for 2020 are helping small businesses and ensuring a “safe summer vacation” for New Zealanders.

In bad news for creating a trans-Tasman bubble earlier this year, Ms. Ardern said she was unlikely to change “existing border settings” in the short term.

Ms. Ardern’s Labor Party won the election on October 17th. That victory will be confirmed on Friday when the electoral commission publishes the final results.

Speaking to Business NZ on Thursday in Auckland, Ms. Ardern said she interpreted the result of the COVID-dominated survey as “confirmation of what we have done and what we are up to”.

“We made our choice in New Zealand,” she said.

“By giving up some freedoms, namely freedom of movement at our borders, we are preserving the long-term health of our people and the open economy we now enjoy.

“It was a decision that I firmly believe served us well and that the New Zealanders largely supported.”

New Zealand’s borders remain closed to foreigners, with the exception of those with one government-approved exception.

Starting this week, Kiwis returning to New Zealand will also have to book stays at managed isolation facilities, frustrating many.

While the New Zealand government continues to talk to Australia and the Pacific states about opening up to a freer movement, Ms. Ardern has suggested not considering that this year.

“New Zealanders want and deserve a safe summer vacation, so our focus is on managing the existing risk profile,” she said.

“We’ll continue with our existing margin settings for now while we work on what can be accommodated in those settings.”

The Labor leader’s address to Business NZ indicated that very little legislation should be passed this year as her government is instead focusing on removing support for companies hit by the COVID-induced downturn.

New Zealand reported an updated unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent on Wednesday – well below the Treasury Department’s forecasts, as well as Australia’s 6.9 percent and the OECD average of 7.4 percent.

Ms. Ardern said she would try to extend a small business loan program and interest-free period and launch a “flexi wage system” worth NZD 311 million (US $ 290 million) by the end of the year.

The government has also set a Christmas deadline for bills doubling the sick leave – from five to ten days – before they are consulted next year.

Finally, Ms Ardern said that “a trade mission will be high on my list”, naming Europe and the UK as a likely target.

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