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Labour Party election candidate Vanushi Walters argues the most important way to protect our economy remains protecting the health of our people from the threat of COVID-19

Labour Party election candidate Vanushi Walters argues the most important way to protect our economy remains protecting the health of our people from the threat of COVID-19

By Vanushi Walters*

One lasting legacy of COVID-19 must be that we finally see ‘the economy’ not as an obscure mathematical entity, but actually just another way of talking about our wellbeing. 

By going hard and early on a public health response to COVID, we have so far buffered ourselves from the worst of the financial fallout that’s reverberating around the world.

New Zealand is in a much stronger position than we might have predicted in March. For that, I’m incredibly proud of our Government, our Prime Minister, and our team of five million.

While much has been said about the drop in unemployment in the June quarter – that we should be cautious about how we interpret the data. We should, of course. But we shouldn’t overlook the good news too. The figures overall are better than forecast, as a result of our collective actions. And the labour force participation rate sitting just shy of 70%, down less than one percent on pre-COVID levels, it a testament to everyone’s efforts to tackle the virus and protect our economy.

While there are undoubtedly tough times to come for some workers and firms, these figures show the continued resilience in our labour market – something we can all take heart in.

But we only need to look to Australia to remember how fragile and precious our new normal is. The most important way to protect our economy remains protecting the health of our people from the threat of COVID-19.

The threat isn’t going away anytime soon. However, we also need to take stock, and proactively look to the coming months, years and decades. That’s why Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a five-point plan to keep our economy moving, and to ensure that people and jobs are at the centre of our rebuild. 

We’re investing in our people. It’s a fundamental guiding principle of our plan that to bolster our economy, we must invest in our people. Making apprenticeships and targeted trades training free will ensure people are the driving force of our economic recovery. 

But those skilled workers must have jobs to go into, and we can create meaningful livelihoods by backing projects that have flow-on benefits for our communities. We’re creating thousands of jobs while cleaning up our waterways, and building roads, railways, classrooms and hospitals, as well as 18,000 public houses by 2024.

The third part of our plan makes sure we are preparing for our future. Even while we’re dealing with immediate crises, we can’t lose momentum on tackling climate change. We also need to look beyond the horizon to harness the opportunities of digital transformation, and encourage R&D and innovation.

All of this hinges on the fourth component of our plan – supporting our small businesses, entrepreneurs and job creators. The Wage Subsidy has helped businesses and their staff hold on through an unprecedented storm. But it doesn’t end there, our Small Business Loan Scheme has given firms breathing room, and we will continue to support our small businesses.

Finally, it’s crucial that we continue to position New Zealand globally as a good place to trade and invest in. And one bright day – as a place to visit again.

It may not feel like it now, but our borders won’t be closed forever. Until the day we can welcome the world in again with open arms, we will be rebuilding, and rolling out our plan to keep New Zealand moving.

*Vanushi Walters is Labour’s candidate for Upper Harbour, and is #23 on the Labour Party List. She is a Director at Cogent Law and a Trustee at Foundation North.  She has taken leave from her role as a Senior Manager at the Human Rights Commission during the campaigning period. Brooke van Velden, who is the ACT Party's Deputy Leader and Wellington Central candidate, is also writing a regular column for during this election campaign.

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Deadly novel bunyavirus re-emerges in China

"By going hard and early on a public health response to COVID, we have so far buffered ourselves from the worst of the financial fallout that’s reverberating around the world"

Should NZ close it's borders altogether now until the extent of this Bunyavirus plays out?. Or wait?

Close, for the foreseeable future.
It's great not having bloody tourists.

Public health response.
More a border force. Avoidance.
Public health running the quarantine shown not to work, shown to leak.

Who knows the condition of the health system, how goes the contact tracing, what's up with the APP. Gold Standard.

Don't like head in the sand stuff, especially when XYZ imminity may be viable.
Peak Prosperity interesting for the curious.

Nice Labour Party puff piece.

The author is correct in saying containing covid was necessary for the economy, but only because as a society we lacked the stoicism to deal with it.

Previous generations have generally just 'got on with life' in the face of far more lethal threats. Of course our economic growth was always going to tank, if people were afraid to step outside. But the latter was stoked by media and government - with the caveat that we were dealing with a novelty.

Now 6 months on and 'defeating the virus' is still seen as an end to be reached at all costs, despite the fact that our knowledge of it has increased massively since March. That includes general estimates of mortality, which have indeed decreased to flu-like levels now that those on their way out already have been carried off a year or two early. That's the idiocy of the Melbourne lock down 2.0.

Wonderful handwaving there - money must be really important to you.

It's not about money, it's about society. Society is a combination of a wide-ranging group of factors, and it is naive to assume that they can be separated into neat little binary conflicts, like health vs. the economy. The purely health-driven response to this virus has been "one life lost is one too many", which is patently absurd. The other side of it, to hell with health, money is the object, is equally bad. What is lacking in this whole debate is any broad-ranging attempt at consensus. Instead, we have been cowed into submission by a compliant and irresponsible media which has been happy to scare people to get attention, and self-appointed experts who have yet to give anyone an accurate picture of what this virus actually means. The result is a public whose perceptions re deeply flawed. A recent survey taken in the UK, Denmark,US, France and Sweden (all relatively sophisticated societies) found that while about 50% put the percentage of people in their country who had died at 1% or less, the balance had it at anything from 2% up to 51%, with about 25% saying 5-40%. The actual percentage in the UK is 0.1%. Those types of figures suggest that rational and evidence -based consideration of the virus is not possible. Government and the Ministry of Health have a duty to explain the facts to us, but instead, it seems there is a concerted campaign of disinformation to ensure compliance. In short, we are being lied to.


Vanushi, how about finally sorting out the tax rates.