6 Apr 2020

More industry and small businesses could reopen - National

8:59 am on 6 April 2020

The National Party says industries and small businesses being hit hard by the lockdown could continue to work safely.

Carpenter looking at the plans, joiner, small business

Photo: 123rf

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National's economic development spokesperson, MP Todd McClay, told Morning Report to give our economy the best chance to weather the effects of Covid-19, there needs to be more freedom for businesses to keep operating.

"The government needs to remain agile when it comes to allowing businesses to operate during the lockdown, if they can prove or show that they can do so safely.

"To date the decision making has been too arbitrary and there are too many inconsistencies. For instance, allowing dairies to open but not local butchers or greengrocers, agriculture to continue but not forestry, cigarettes to be manufactured but community newspapers cannot be printed.

McClay acknowledged the government had reconsidered and relaxed the rules in some cases already, but said this needed to be taken further.

Exceptions have already been made for contactless sales of whiteware and heaters, and butchers to process pork.

"An example of this is Noel Leeming - they're allowed to sell you a jug, but not a cell phone, but the person that's packaging that ... contactless sale that's being delivered to the door, they're already at work. Or the warehouse that's allowed to sell you a car battery, not car polish."

"We know that agriculture is functioning, I'd ask what's the difference between that and forestry - an industry that is hugely important to the central North Island."

Todd McClay, MP for Rotorua

National economic development spokesperson Todd McClay. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

McClay said he believed business owners should be trusted to adapt to be able to operate responsibly with the new dangers presented by Covid-19.

"New Zealanders are doing there bit here, largely across the board the vast, the vast majority of people are respecting these rules. I think if the government says they trust people around self-isolation, that there will be ways for businesses to open up.

"I think if you're a clothing manufacturer, or a small business that's working from home it can be contactless, you will show that you will adhere to and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules, but we need to be doing everything you can to keep these businesses running."

He said governments in Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea had taken a different approach to New Zealand, where trading had continued more freely. And the Chinese economy is starting to rebuild, after the initial effects of the emergence of Covid-19, and they would have "an enormous appetite for some of the things that we can produce".

"They have allowed [trade] to continue, they've really focused on testing and contact tracing. I think there are ways that we can allow people to keep trading, and to keep doing the things they need to.

"It's just crazy that people can buy things from overseas online, and it will turn up on their doorstep. It can be done safely, but New Zealand businesses are not allowed to."

While there are some exports leaving the country under the current rules, unless that was expanded, and more businesses were allowed to operate, the recovery was likely to be decades long, he said.

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