18 Nov 2021

Covid-19: 'There is now a clear pathway for Auckland' - Grant Robertson

4:45 pm on 18 November 2021

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says he shares some of the frustration felt by Aucklanders, but ultimately its restrictions had been incredibly important for suppressing the virus.

Robertson has addressed media this afternoon after meeting with business owners and health providers in Auckland.

Watch the media conference here:

Speaking at the stand-up Robertson acknowledged there was a high degree of frustration in Auckland, and said that he shared that frustration.

But ultimately the restrictions had been an incredibly important part of suppressing the virus.

"And there is now a clear pathway and plan for Auckland.

"In the course of the last three months over $5.5bn of support has come from the government to business, to help people stay in work, to help them with fixed costs. We've tweaked that, we've changed that in response to what we've heard and I've heard more ideas today and I'll take them back."

Robertson's meetings in the supercity come four weeks ahead of the Auckland's border reopening in the lead-up to Christmas and the holiday period.

He said the health system had been able to manage up until now, and it was coping "although it is under stress".

The move for the city to the Red setting would increase that pressure, and the government would need to be prepared for that, Robertson said.

"We don't want Auckland to be at the Red level for any longer than it needs to be but we do need to make sure we carefully move our way through the framework.

"Aucklanders will notice a difference when we go to the Red level. We do have to manage that, be careful, step our way through it just as we've always done."

Robertson said the wage subsidy scheme had always been linked to alert level 3 and the move to the traffic light system would mean a shift.

"Now we do move to a different phase. One of the things I was discussing today with a number of the businesses is the transition payment, so we announced on the 22 October that there would be a transitional payment, when the framework starts. We're just finalising that now."

He told media that his trip to Auckland had been a great opportunity to talk to businesses, and discuss the next steps for New Zealand.

He started his visit at South Seas medical centre in South Auckland to thank the team for their testing and vaccination efforts and to hear about how they are managing plans for the next phase.

He then met with the Auckland Business Chamber and members of the board to hear from them about challenges and issues for businesses operating in Auckland.

"It was good to hear it from a number of those actual business organisations," he said.

He then spoke with representatives of Heart of the City and members of the hospitality industry, then met with Auckland Unlimited.

"You'll be aware that we announced towards the end of October around $60m worth of funding for business advice and for people to change their business models and also around mental health support for our SMEs as well, so they're involved of the delivery of that so it was good to hear from them."

He said the day had been really useful and it made a real difference to be able to be there and hear from them directly after having previously been in contact over zoom during the outbreak.

"I think I've got a pretty good relationship with the business community. We might not always agree over every single thing but over the last four years I have spent a lot of time listening, talking to businesses, just as I have in the last few months. I think the level of support that the government's provided to businesses ... has been extraordinary when you look at it historically."

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