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Finance Minister Grant Robertson pressures banks to waive contactless payment fees, is unsupportive of National's commercial rent subsidy proposal, and says a pilot for re-opening the border may be delayed

Finance Minister Grant Robertson pressures banks to waive contactless payment fees, is unsupportive of National's commercial rent subsidy proposal, and says a pilot for re-opening the border may be delayed

Finance Minister Grant Robertson would be "supportive" of banks waiving fees charged to businesses that use contactless payment systems, but won't force them to do so. 

While the major banks waived these fees last year, they aren't doing so during this lockdown.

This is despite the four Australian-owned banks reporting net profits after tax of between $225 million and $487 million in the three months to June.

Robertson said he would raise the matter with bank CEOs when he talks to them this week.

“I’ve certainly got the feedback from both vendors and consumers that this is something they would like,” he told

“Across the economy, New Zealand businesses have done fairly well over the last year. The rebound from the last lockdown was quick and put us in a very strong position.

“We have to share the burden again now as we go through this new outbreak. And I’d certainly be looking for our banks to do that. They’ve expressed, in their comments to me, a willingness to be helpful. So that’s what we should be now seeing.”

Govt won’t subsidise businesses’ rent

Robertson indicated an unwillingness to provide businesses with additional financial support to specifically cover rent costs.

He said the one-off Covid-19 Resurgence Support Payment was designed to contribute to costs such as rent.

The National Party, supported by BusinessNZ and various industry groups representing the retail and hospitality sectors, is calling for the Government to pay up to half of Covid-affected small businesses’ rent and “associated building operating costs”.

National finance spokesperson Andrew Bayly is proposing this support be made available to businesses with 19 or fewer full-time employees that have suffered a 40% reduction in revenue under Level 3 or 4.

Speaking to, Bayly said the support should be capped at $10,000 per business per month.

He said the intent of the policy would be for landlords to also provide a 25% rent discount, leaving tenants to pay the remaining 25% of their rent.

Bayly said businesses that have negotiated tenancy agreements requiring their landlords to discount or halt their rent payments if they can’t occupy the premise wouldn’t qualify for support.

He estimated the policy could cost the Government around $150 million a week - an amount he deemed reasonable in the context of $62 billion being put aside for the Covid-19 response last year, and compared to the cost of people losing their jobs.

Robertson said the Ministry of Justice advised him more tenancy agreements now include clauses that require landlords to reduce or eliminate rent if a premise can’t be occupied.

Bayly guessed around 20% to 30% of businesses have such contracts.

Robertson said that while he aimed to keep people attached to their jobs, the Government “can’t pay every bill of every business across an outbreak”.

As at Tuesday, various government payments made to businesses since the start of this lockdown hit $1.26 billion. More than $873.3 million of this was for Wage Subsidies, which are supporting around 28% of people in paid work. See more on what support has been provided here.

Border reopening test on business people may be delayed

Robertson said the Government was still working towards the plan it set out last month for New Zealand to start re-opening the border within the first three months of 2022.

Under this strategy, travellers into New Zealand will be classified either low, medium or high-risk depending on where they come from and their vaccination status.

Low-risk travellers won’t need to isolate on arrival. Medium-risk travellers will need to meet modified isolation rules, including a shorter stay in managed isolation and/or self-isolation. High-risk travellers will need to do 14 days in managed isolation.

The Government last month said it would test the medium-risk pathway between October and December on approved people who need to travel for work purposes.

However, Robertson said this Covid-19 outbreak “may” cause a slight delay in getting this pilot off the ground.

“But it is still our intention to move towards that piece of work,” Robertson said.

“Hopefully in October.”

The issues written about in this story are covered in the second half of the video interview. Issues around poverty, inflation and housing are discussed in the first half. This will be summarised in a separate story.

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