Aussie bubble on 'the horizon': Ardern

Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern says a transtasman bubble is on "the horizon and real".

In a wide-ranging interview with Kerre McIvor's Newstalk ZB, the Prime Minister talked about David Clark's resignation, opening the borders and what is being done to create more jobs.

Opening borders

When asked about how we can host a successful America's Cup with our borders closed, Ardern told McIvor they wanted a world class event and it wasn't just about visitor numbers.

As for the axing of Apec hosting the world's leaders, Ardern said it was easier to have a virtual event given the instability around Covid-19 and borders.

As for re-opening the country's borders, Ardern said there was not a lot of clarity around that situation and the country needed to think about the future and the Government was doing that thinking and working in earnest of that happening along with a transtasman bubble.

The great unknown for countries with a high presence of Covid-19 is what it would look like with a vaccine and other measures.

"I think the world will be very different in a few months' time," Ardern said.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters yesterday outlined what he saw as the requirements for the borders to re-open.

With Australia, Kiwis could travel to certain states while we could also travel to some Pacific Islands, including the Cook Islands and Niue.

But for other, major countries the challenge was much bigger.

Countries would have to have a clean record, Peters told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking - zero community transmission cases, like New Zealand has had since April 28.

Creating jobs

In response to a question from a caller about tourists already in the country, Ardern said she had been asked to give them a visitor's residency to contribute to the country's growth.

She said there were a chunk of people who were in the country and had decided to go home, but for others the Government was looking at re-deployment including the horticulture sector.

Speaking generally, Ardern said that for tourism they needed to find opportunities which were a good fit and offered a good wage.

Some could work in tourism in Rotorua or Queenstown or eco-tourism.

When asked about the sector's survival, Ardern said there were plenty of Kiwis visiting those towns.

As for the Government's economic plan, Ardern said it was about "jobs, jobs, jobs".

Training also had to be part of it, she said.

"Jobs will continue to be our focus."

On "shovel-ready" projects, Ardern accepted they weren't shovel ready but some work, including a project in Queenstown, would be ready to start in three months which she said was a quick turn around. Many others were six to 12 months. She said shovel-ready meant there was planning that had already done.

Asked by McIvor about where to find that money, and borrowing it, Ardern said people who travelled offshore "spent billions" which would now be spent here.

Another caller, in the tourism industry, asked about the wage subsidy finishing next month and having to still run a business. Ardern said discussions have been held and accepted there wasn't any revenue coming in. She knew it needed to be worked through.

The caller said it was something they were having to deal with daily and were worried what the future held. Ardern said there was a period of uncertainty ahead and that a transtasman bubble was on "the horizon and real".

Asked by McIvor about where to find that money, and borrowing it, Ardern said people who travelled offshore "spent billions" which would now be spent here.

Spending on infrastructure would also have future pay-offs.

The country had to think about the areas that lost jobs and had to do more to encourage woman to try new jobs including trades. The food in schools programme also offered job opportunities.

Another caller asked why dairy farm workers can't go back to work. The worker had lived in New Zealand for years but had gone home briefly and was unable to return. She asked how her relative was to cope without the help.

Ardern said they had limitations on who can come back, mainly New Zealand citizens. Others had to show that they had a very specific skill. Ardern said that category would be the "next cab off the rank" and that they didn't have permanent residency but were integral to the country's economy.

However, Kiwis overseas losing their jobs and returning home were taking up most of the capacity at the moment, Ardern said.

A residential property developer asked about the Resource Management Act and Ardern said they had put through a portion last night including cycleways, water and housing projects.

Asked by McIvor about the cost of Covid-19 to the next generation, Ardern said no matter what approach they took there would be a cost. They chose a particular path - hard and early - and have come out faster than other countries. The Government's debt was low and she believed would remain low compared to other countries.

New cases

Another caller asked how the public could have confidence in the Government after Ardern claimed there would be tens of thousands of deaths from Covid-19 and that the Government was the only source of the truth.

Ardern said it sounded like a loaded question but she said they wanted to make sure they provided factual information when they country went into lockdown as there was a lot of misinformation circulating at the time.

On the amount of deaths, Ardern said it wasn't about fear she said they were just sharing information that they were given at the time.

In regards to the collapse of errors around quarantine, Ardern told McIvor they had the equivalent of a small town in quarantine and they were dealing with humans and asking them to abide by very strict protocols to keep everyone safe.

Ardern said her heart went out to Victoria which was currently dealing with an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

Yesterday there were two new cases of Covid-19, meaning there are now 18 active cases.

The first new case was a man in his 30s, staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, who arrived in New Zealand on June 27 from California.

The second is a woman in her 30s, who was at the Novotel Ellerslie, who arrived in New Zealand on June 21 from Kenya, via Doha and Brisbane.

One person is in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition.

New Zealand now has a total of 1180 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

But pressure still remains on the country's quarantine and managed isolation facilities which are currently housing 5305 people. That's expected to grow to 6481 next week.

The facilities will increase from 24 to 27 from Monday.

Hamilton's Ibis Hotel yesterday began receiving guests, along with The Distinction Hotel in Te Rapa. A third hotel, at the north end of the city has also been earmarked for quarantine guests.

Dunedin and Queenstown are also being looked at as potential sites.

Another caller asked Ardern about PPE and why there was still not enough of it for aged care workers in Wellington and around New Zealand. Ardern replied that should not be the case and there was nothing to suggest that there should be such a shortage. She offered to take the caller's phone number to follow up with her later.

David Clark

Ardern this morning denied Clark's resignation was a result of internal polling. She told McIvor he came to the conclusion he was an "unhelpful distraction" in the fight against Covid-19 and he wanted to move on.

With Chris Hipkins as his replacement, Ardern said the primary focus remains Covid-19 and that it's not just a health response. He was the minister for state services and knows what's required to have the whole Government working together.

The health and disability sector review was also a key piece of work they would focus on.

In addressing media yesterday, Clark said he had given the role "his all" but accepted he was continuing to distract from the Government's Covid response.

He had already offered to resign over his beach excursion during the lockdown, which Ardern would have accepted were it not for the need for continuity in the Covid crisis.

Greens policy

One caller thanked Ardern for "doing a great job" before asking about a coalition with the Greens even if they won the support.

Ardern said it was an MMP environment but she would like to think that her ability to work with other parties that she would work successfully with other parties.

The caller was concerned about the Green's universal payment plan. Ardern said it wasn't their policy and they would announce their own. She said it was much easier to calculate things like tax transfers but was hard to talk about a wealth tax and how much that would generate.

She said they were looking to go into areas where there weren't tax brackets, but she said the bottom line was it was the Greens' own policy.

She said it's always the party that wants to do the least that's perceived to have the most power but that wasn't the case.

On axing the capital gains tax, Ardern said it was something they campaigned on for years, and after failing to get it over the line she was now of the view "why keep flogging a dead horse".

America's Cup

Last night the Herald and ZB owner NZME were gagged from printing any details of a report commissioned by the Crown into the spending of public money.

NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB were served an injunction in the High Court by America's Cup Event Ltd (ACE) and Team NZ from publishing details of a report commissioned by the Crown into the spending of public money.

MBIE has also suspended making any further payments to America's Cup organisers as it investigates the spending claims.

The suspension and court orders come after Team New Zealand and America's Cup organisers allegedly "reclassified" a $3 million loan and claims of fraud involving a Hungarian bank account.

MBIE said $40 million has been set aside for the event fee. To date, $29m has been paid to ACE in line with contractual funding milestones.

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