Our team of five million has been congratulated many times for our success in dealing with the COVID-19 public health crisis.

We now need the same effort in dealing with the COVID-19 business crisis. Several factors make this a crisis:

  • some of our sectors like shopfront retail were already under pressure from on-line competitors and have been further impacted by the lockdown and aftermath
  • tourism was coming off its historical high growth period as we entered the 2019-20 peak summer season
  • International markets are now unstable with demand uncertain, though fortunately China is holding up to date
  • quarantine capacity limitations in New Zealand make entry by tourists and international students impractical.

To exacerbate this, we have seen a slowing down in the public sector response, as agencies strain under the weight and pace of change. The election campaign period we have just entered has only made it worse, with some Ministers slow to make decisions and immigration is one of  the worst example of this paralysis. With hundreds of millions of dollars of investor migrant money awaiting approval, and highly skilled workers required by many of our members, these delays are placing unnecessary pressures on our efforts to transform the economy.

I am using the word transform deliberately. This is because I think we need to focus on transforming all aspects of the economy.  The EMA has helped lead the charge with Resource Management Act reform and this government have leaned into that more than any previous administration.

We need the same determination on other transformation initiatives and the EMA and the BusinessNZ Network have rolled up our sleeves to get stuck into this activity. The state sector has proven it can operate at a faster pace and more collaborative way during the lockdown stages of the crisis. This needs to be the new standard mode of operation if we are to respond effectively to our economic challenges. We need more partnerships with the private sector so that we can truly step change the pace required to drive the necessary change.

We would like to see transformation in the following areas:

  • fast tracking government procurement so that the shovel ready and other infrastructure projects can begin as soon as possible, and opportunities for New Zealand companies are maximised across all government procurement
  • digitising our businesses with incentives around capital investment in hardware and software
  • reforming the state sector to drive greater collaboration and interaction with the private sector
  • support for small businesses in their development including greater access to capital and debt
  • a digitally enabled workforce, particularly taking advantage of this massive brain gain we are experiencing from returning New Zealanders and migrants wanting to come here
  • better healthcare and education systems that can respond to the contemporary challenges New Zealand faces
  • a sense of pride in the opportunity for businesses to lead our economic recovery.

You can be sure the EMA and the BusinessNZ Network are up for this challenge. It is going to be tough for many businesses, no question, and we are doing whatever we can to support our members through the challenges they are facing on a daily basis.

But I truly believe this is a massive opportunity for our business community, which can create enormous societal benefits – lets grab it and run hard.