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Senior Business Leaders Call Out To Government. Again

Written By: - Date published: 8:12 am, March 3rd, 2021 - 41 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, covid-19, Economy, grant robertson, jacinda ardern - Tags:

At risk of Anglo-Saxon adverbs leaping out, it was still great to see our Great and Good business titans putting out an invitation to the government to “set a clear path out of Covid-19“.

What they sought was, and I quote:

  • The status of New Zealand’s near to long-term COVID-19 strategy to be made available beyond government circles. In particular, the group would welcome a clear explanation of the key metrics, thresholds and milestones officials are tracking to judge the ongoing performance against this strategy over time.
  • The detail of New Zealand’s contracted access to vaccines, including the timing and size of each tranche of vaccines through the ongoing vaccine purchase programme, similar to government responses overseas, and the principles which will drive roll-out.
  • The publication of New Zealand’s testing capacity and strategy, including any plans for enhanced community, workplace and surge testing options, the inclusion of additional testing technology such as saliva PCR tests and any other changes to the testing regime as recommended by the Roche Simpson report.
  • An understanding of any future plans for a more automated approach to tracking and tracing, health passports and other technology to manage future community outbreaks and manage the vaccine roll out.
  • The status of the government’s plan to develop the ‘world’s smartest border’ to enable New Zealand business to reconnect with critical overseas customers, international students to return and to allow friends and family to reconnect in Australia and the Pacific Islands through safe travel zones.

What they could have done is thanked the government for the tens of billions of dollars in direct untagged subsidy by which this government has propped up their businesses and their share prices.

But they didn’t

They could then move on from that to note that New Zealand remains the best-Covid-19 managed country in the developed world.

But they didn’t.

They could have shown how their shrewd and hungry entrepreneurial drive will turn New Zealand’s COVID-19 competitive advantage into bold business strategy.

But they didn’t.

They could have demonstrated how they have formed initiatives between them that could have assisted the government to achieve any of the specific points they sought. Hell if you could only see the identification and tracking systems that SkyCity has. Or the international marketing capacity of the entire university system. But they didn’t.

They could have shown that they were willing to contribute to any kind of collective plan for business for New Zealand in a world where international travel is diminished for years, low-skill international labour isn’t coming back much, and the profitable focus is going to stay hard on high productivity products and services and low mass exports. They didn’t.

It would not be difficult for a Prime Minister to simply ask: do our titans of industry have any leadership capacity at all?

Each of their bullet points seeks operational detail that is designed to simply second guess criteria that are already well set and underway and for which the public sector is best placed to make policy decisions. Nor did they say that upon receiving any of this information they would actually help.

The entire statement they have put out seeks not to show any initiative, but simply to plead on behalf of their investments.

These then are not the commercial representatives of our much-vaunted Team of Five Million. It was the Team of 500 people Who Own 60% Of Our Wealth speaking.

It may well be that, like Labour governments past, this government prefers to make massive interventions and expect our main industry markets to adjust in their own way. That would make March 2021 as the time that the business community acts like a community of interest and organises itself to do more than whine about public health operational details.

It’s pretty evident this group of capitalist multimillionaires haven’t engaged with DPMC’s cross-government COVID-19 group.

Nor with Treasury’s own massive responses.

Before they hire another PR firm to opine on their behalf, they need to demonstrate they have a functioning brain.

41 comments on “Senior Business Leaders Call Out To Government. Again ”

  1. Sanctuary 1


    I couldn’t believe how pompous that statement was. I notice – yet again – the prominence of Auckland university in this statement.

    Auckland University has become an outlier in it’s extreme behaviour even for neoliberals. In a just world, the government would be planning a most unpleasant reckoning for that institutions senior management post covid.

    • Incognito 1.1


      Did somebody push your button, again?

      What/where is “the prominence of Auckland university in this statement”?

      It was mentioned only once, as was Auckland University of Technology, because their respective Chancellors were part of the leaders group and listed their affiliations.

      You don’t seem to know that a university Chancellor is a figurehead only with a limited and prescribed ceremonial role.

      The head of the University is the Chancellor, currently Scott St John,[2] however this position is only titular.


  2. Reality 2

    Between the lines they are saying we are the de facto government, so do our bidding. It seems every person with an inflated ego, like Richard Prebble, is wanting a headline or to pass on their opinion. Too many cooks spoiling the broth.

    Give me Ashley Bloomfield's quiet, considered, polite persona any day than these "know all's".

    • Sanctuary 2.1

      Prebble would have us in a corrupt chumocracy like the UK, throwing money at government favourites like Sam Morgan for dubious technology and outsourcing track and trace to private sector cronies and party donors like Serco in the UK.

      Never, ever forget Prebble was part of the government which basically allowed the criminal gang of Alan Gibbs, David Richwhite, Peter Shirtcliffe, Bob Matthew, Roderick Deane, Trevor Farmer, Sir Ronald Trotter and Ralph Norris and others to asset strip and plunder huge sections of our economy including Air New Zealand, Telecom and Tranz Rail.

      • Anne 2.1.1

        You forgot Michael Fay.

      • Foreign Waka 2.1.2


      • georgecom 2.1.3

        the self entitled old boys club* who expected and wanted the state to facilitate the transfer of significant wealth into their pockets, the 1%ers lobby group.

        * one of the regular national party supporting contributors on this blog didn't like the term "old boys club" and suggested the term "think tank". So in placeof "old boys club" I would use the term "1%ers lobby group"

        • georgecom

          which I guess renders Prebble and others like Douglas and Brash as 1%er socket puppets

  3. DukeEll 3

    Given covid is the biggest struggle we face at the moment, as child poverty and house prices don't seem that important, the information being asked for doesn't seem like beyond what any competent government would have ready to make it's own decisions on. releasing it doesn't seem that bad either.

    Does this government have a detailed plan about fixing or working the way out of any problem?

    • Sanctuary 3.1

      Because as Advantage points out, they'll then use it to a) second guess every decision the government makes and b) as a stick to beat the government with "you promised the vaccine on Tuesday now its Wednesday wah wah wah wah dad won't give me the car keys". ad infinitum.

      They seem very entitled to me, demanding to know operational details simply because they are very important people. What do they plan to do with it? They've offered nothing constructive.

      • DukeEll 3.1.1

        But if there is a detailed and comprehensive plan, it will stand up to criticisms of that nature. badly thought through plans and no plans will be affected by such criticism. Is that why the government won't release it?

        Or can we not be trusted to have the knowledge?

        • shanreagh

          There is no 'we' in their approach DukeEll.

          They are solely focused on themselves.

          From the time the NP opposition stood 'so-called silly staunch' last year and did not cross the floor to stand by the Govt in its approach to the virus when we were facing the unknown, followed by the ongoing sniping and ridiculous posing/journeying of Simon Bridges during the lockdown there has been some notable anti govt rhetoric and a holding back from those who should know better. I class this as part of that.

          However we/government must engage as this group has the potential to disrupt any move to a better world with Covid in our midst with a focus on going backwards.

          How many of the group have been employers who did not return the wage subsidy and/or have laid off workers? If there are any of these it diminishes case for inclusion really.

          The best thing they can do is to be part of the groups outlined above and perhaps one way would be for the Govt to publicly invite them to be so.

          Or perhaps rather than posing questions they should work together to put some suggestions up. I don't think anyone wants or needs or has time for a mass of empty posturing from any group. If they've have got ideas then put them forward……to people and groups that can assess/discuss etc.

          • DukeEll

            So don't ask questions about seeing a plan, because the plan will be criticised.

            Instead present their own plan. Which would be a form of critcism of the government who haven't presented a plan.

            Some fucking woolly headed thinking from you and sanctuary on this.

            Maybe people who aren't business owners are wondering what the plan is too? Are those people to be dismissed as they are deemed to be "oppositional"

            • shanreagh

              Why demand details when they can work together with one of the committees set up by the Govt through DPMC or the Treasury, you know work constructively, instead of grandstanding. Then they can be in at the start working with peers in govt, other industries etc. Putting their suggestions forward, having them assessed etc.

              As long as there are businesses that have not acted ethically in returning any Covid advances or firing staff after receiving such, I am afraid their credibility to me, and I suspect to some in higher echelons, would be shot.

              But if they are sincere in working with Govt it is always better, reputation-wise, to get in at the ground floor and not expect some sort of public dialogue on a govt to lobby group basis. Despite the groups' views they are not the equals of the Govt and should not demand anything because of a misplaced view of their own importance.

              I am not so woolly headed that I am expecting ‘ta dah’ A PLAN….I am expecting many plans, climate change, roll out of vaccines, housing, health, trade …where Covid has/will have an impact on these then it will be addressed. Covid is not the sum total of the work that the Govt is doing.

              • DukeEll

                This government has had a year almost to the day to plan for the way out from covid. Pray for the vaccines then stick everyone with it. sort of a plan i guess.

                This government has also had several years to come up with CC, Housing, Health and trade plans. precious little evidence of those too.

                Dismissing calls to see a plan simply because it comes from business is far to simplistic. Dismissing their calls for a plan as they haven't got their own is woolly headed thinking.

                Each of those business owners will have a plan for their own company., You'd think the government would have one for it's own country

                • shanreagh

                  One is coming up……it is called the Budget. We have one most years and we had ongoing announcements during the last year.

                  The Policy statement was released on 9/2.


                  Climate change was discussed here only a few weeks ago….haven’t got time to find all the links for you.

                  One idea is to look at column to the right of this and read the press releases and requests for comments that are put out by Govt/Depts.

                  There is an ongoing fallacy that Govt work is akin to the way a household budget works.

                  Comparing the Govt to a large corporation goes right to the ground rock of the neo-liberal rubbish of the 1ate 80s/90s where govt depts were all enjoined to think like corporations, we sold off so-called non-performing assets as companies do. In doing this we forgot completely that many of these govt dept had an immense social capital that could not be envisaged/counted by company clones.

                  The comparison of a company with the Government is not apt.

                  • DukeEll

                    Press releases aren't a plan. They are a statement of desire, perhaps intent.

                    the budget is a plan to spend money. this government is excellent at planning for that. not much else it seems

                    • shanreagh

                      Ok so you have not read the Policy statement. That's fine, your choice.

                      It does contain much on well being as well as:

                      The Labour Government's overarching policy goals for the next three years are:

                      • Continuing to keep New Zealand safe from COVID-19
                      • Accelerating the recovery and rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19
                      • Laying the foundations for the future, including addressing key issues such as our climate change response, housing affordability and child poverty.

                      etc etc etc.

                      Three big sections that you and the business leaders could have read…..

                      The press statements also often contain invitations from Govt for comments to help formulate policy. Again responding can be a way pf participating.

                    • DukeEll

                      you do understand the difference between a plan and a policy statement right?

                    • shanreagh

                      In response to your

                      you do understand the difference between a plan and a policy statement right?

                      Of course. Spent the greater part of my working life on high level policy as opposed to plans. Latter part working on technical policy that drops out of legislation etc. and before any operational 'how to do this'. Done my fair share of working on strategic planning and business planning…..

                      You need good policy before you get down to the nitty, gritty of plans…at any one time there have some ideas being worked on at a high level and going right down to what we call technical policy, then operational plans.

                      The better the policy is the better the operational plans will be.

                      That is why to adopt the ideas from the Business Group holus bolus is to adopt something that does not appear to have any high level or philosophical work behind it.

                      The budget nowadays is much more than a process of spending money it has aspirational elements as well with the focus on meeting well being targets.

                    • DukeEll []

                      Ah, so for a the best part of your life you’ve been the problem and not the solution. Strategies and plans need policies to keep them guided and moving in the right direction. Policy comes out of the plan which comes out of the goal being set.
                      The other way is arse backwards and given your dismissal of this approach by high achieving individuals, I’m surmising you still work on policy at high level, and in government. Which would go a long way to explaining why so many of these policies and aspirations are having no impact on the well being of this country

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Ah, so for a the best part of your life you’ve been the problem and not the solution.

                      Thanks DukeEll for beginning your comment with a personal attack – saved me the bother of reading the rest of it.

  4. shanreagh 4

    Here is a partial list

    The group includes Patrick Strange (Chair of Chorus NZ and Auckland Airport), Prue Flacks (Chair of Mercury Energy), Joan Withers (Chair of The Warehouse Group), Rob Campbell (Chair of SkyCity, Tourism Holdings, Summerset and Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology) and Scott St John (Chancellor of the University of Auckland and Chair of Fisher & Paykel Healthcare).



    “We are positive about what has been achieved to date. We are all keen and committed to bringing our collective expertise to assist the Government in working for the longer-term benefit of all New Zealanders and look forward to the government’s response.” Rob Campbell.

    Well buddies to give the govt a gotcha is not the way to win friends and influence people. How much more powerful it would have been had there been a joint press release saying that they are working with the committees and have offered their own expertise to govt (ie the tracking etc). or just done this with no publicity.

    But I dream.

    • Graeme 4.1

      Yep, a lovely roll call of all the titans of commerce who didn’t have a plan for a pandemic, because ‘it’ll never happen’

      Now they are pushing the line that the Government hasn’t got a plan to divert from their own lack of planning and risk analysis.

      Could be some very tetchy board and shareholder meetings coming up.

      • Pat 4.1.1

        "Could be some very tetchy board and shareholder meetings coming up."

        Its why they command such good remuneration …so they say.

        I suspect it will be water off a ducks back however

  5. RedBaronCV 5

    Looks like they want to get back to selling work visa's to foreign students.

    If they waited about 6 months a lot of these "entitled demands" will have been sorted. And some of the others will need some form of international co-operation.

    Are they just wanting the timelines though so they can roar onto their next list of demands about the public support they will think they are entitled to when the border is a little more open?

    Or they could adjust to the new normal where they have to work for their money. Perhaps they should get on with hardening their supply chains by kickstarting local sourcing and supply with automation where possible.

    • shanreagh 5.1

      Or they could adjust to the new normal where they have to work for their money. Perhaps they should get on with hardening their supply chains by kickstarting local sourcing and supply with automation where possible.

      Far too hard.

      Much easier to rave in public instead of working at the coal face to make improvements.

    • Foreign Waka 5.2

      We are talking about that innovative, entrepreneurial, efficient and soooo much better than the average person are we? LOL.

      To have the poorest paying the major junk of tax only to have that tax taken and paid out to them – 16 billions – must qualify.

  6. Populuxe1 6

    And yet I can't see anything unreasonable in any of that – I'd like to know those things too. I'm sure many of us would. Nor do I see the point in criticising business leaders (or anyone for that matter) for not continuing to praise Labour and scatter rose petals before them a full year on – we're all grateful, we're also fatigued. The only thing I feel I can legitimately complain about is business leaders not doing more to come forward with strategies to support business developing resilience that doesn't require the government.

    • Foreign Waka 6.1

      Well said.

    • shanreagh 6.2

      The only thing I feel I can legitimately complain about is business leaders not doing more to come forward with strategies to support business developing resilience that doesn't require the government.

      Yes they are noticeably silent on this. The total focus on themselves always gets to me. The constant moaning always gets to me


      One person is quoted as saying (March 2021) that 97% of his business relies on international tourism….well they have known about Covid and the fact of no overseas tourists for as long as we have, its a year on and your business is still focused at only grabbing 3% from domestic tourists.

      They need to face facts that the cargo cult of large numbers of overseas tourists coming in and low waged overseas workers to look after them is gone. Probably forever. Time to put your thinking caps on and come up with some innovative strategies for your local tourist industry that the Govt can support, underwrite, lean on banks to support. 'We want some money' as a plan just doesn't cut it.

    • froggleblocks 6.3

      Yeah I don't really get the criticism here. I would like to know those things too. Other countries have published varrying degrees of this information.

      I'm not entirely sure what these business people think they're going to do once they have the information. Perhaps they don't know either. But having more certainty around what the likely trajectory from here is, doesn't seem like a bad thing?

      Better to treat people like mushrooms, keep them in the dark and shovel shit on them?

  7. Descendant Of Smith 7

    The last time these pillars of business were put together to come up with a strategy all they could come up with was a cycleway, a request for the government to give them money and a nine day working week.

    I don't hold much faith that they could do any better this time.

    The government had been planning for a pandemic for many years – the private sector had ignored the risk. They hadn't put reserves away for when it would happen, they hadn't looked at their supply chains, they hadn't looked at how they could pivot to do something else. The whole pandemic came as a surprise to them. Bunch of numpties.

    How many of them have been sacked by their shareholders for disregarding hat was a known risk?

    But ahh the risible jobs summit.

    "The most expensive proposal from the summit was for an equity investment fund involving the Government and private banks as partners.

    Though figures were not discussed in open sessions, the scheme would involve hundreds of millions of dollars."


  8. infused 8

    We couldn't possibly ask the government if it has a plan… how dare they.

    [Please stick to your original user name, thanks]

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    I'm not sure that we're ready for post-Covid strategies. We are dealing with an emergent situation – or government and health are doing so on our behalf.

    I'm sure we'd be interested in anything the usual suspects think they can contribute to the response, but they don't seem ready to engage constructively.

    Somewhere, some ministerial secretary is probably writing a letter that begins: "Thank you for your concern…"

  10. " t would not be difficult for a Prime Minister to simply ask: do our titans of industry have any leadership capacity at all?

    But she didn't.

    And wouldn't dare.

  11. Incognito 11

    Thank you for the Post, but I disagree with most of it as well as with most of the comments so far.

    I welcome the positive and constructive approach this group is following in their “call for more openness and clarity from the Government on its plan for getting New Zealand to “COVID normal”.”

    They did not demand but asked respectfully a number of valid and reasonable questions.

    It is notable that they addressed this to Government without politicising. Even more notable is that they bypassed National and ACT – have they even responded or just stunned silence and crickets?

    They are playing their part and wish to do more and at the same time they are doing an important job that the shambolic Opposition fails to do because they are too busy barking at passing cars and chasing cheap political points. You know the fruit is hanging low and over-ripe when Josie Pagani joins the fray.

    It is good to see that there are still some Leaders Left in Aotearoa-New Zealand!

    • Ad 11.1

      The release came out on the same day as National and Act called for the same things – and continue to do so. If you think there's no link in that then you had better read Dirty Politics again. It's politicised up to its eyeballs.

      As for "playing their part", well, horseshit to that foolish naiveity.

      Michael Barnett the Auckland Chamber of Commerce leader spells it out to the mega-corporates in his response yesterday:

      “If big business really wants to help small business bearing the brunt of the lockdown then they might consider tangible benefits to help mitigate the rising overheads and debts. If there are businesses in this group associated with the telecommunications and energy sectors, consideration could be given to pricing for instance, and every single one of them can do something today to shore up the economy by mandating buy local, pay promptly on the 20th of each month, create employment and training opportunities, and support events and the local visitor market."


      The great majority of business in New Zealand is very small, and Mr Barnett is calling out the electricity and telecommunications monopolists within that group for doing nothing for them at a time of crisis. Business closures have spiked 130% in the last quarter of 2020.


      Plenty on this site have called for landlords to ease up their rents while this crisis continues. And electricity prices. and telco prices. Help citizens and small business?

      Oh fuck no they say. What they prefer to do is seek specific quantifiable medical data so that the entire debate shifts from commercial leadership and recovery to government rollout.

      • Incognito 11.1.1

        Are you suggesting that that press release was a ploy from DP? I’d call that foolish and dangerous paranoia. Will we see an apology in Court in a few years like yesterday’s one by Carrick Graham?

        Yes, Michael Barnett, you, and a whole bunch of commenters here are singing from the same song sheet albeit slightly out of tune, which is mighty interesting. However, it does not address or negate anything in/of my comment.

        You really lost me at the end of your comment.

        The problem as I see it is that many ideologues on/of the Left rather burn and blow up bridges than to find common ground and work together with corporate business leaders, for example. It is clearly not just the Right that perpetuates the gaping political divide and alienating (AKA othering) polarisation.

        I fully expect more populist BS and propaganda; Trump will be back too in 2024 because his ‘work’ is also continuing 🙁

        • shanreagh

          I think what left/leaves me cold is the assumption that

          a) because of their assumed status what they want is worth seeking

          b) that this, life with Covid after the current crises, is a brand new idea that no-one has thought of before

          c) no track record (well none referred at least) of doing this behind the scenes without the 'ra-ra', ie getting alongside/working with the various groups that are working right now and have been since Covid started.

          To me, even if the ideas have merit, they may not get traction unless those putting forward the ideas come closer to those advising Govt, work & stand alongside them, be prepared to have a discussion and accept that some may not work, do some work themselves…..

          d) of course it goes without saying that there are ways that these groups can do work themselves to ease the hardship many face because of their actions. Called getting one's own house in order.

          Stuart Munro said earlier

          ……. We are dealing with an emergent situation – or government and health are doing so on our behalf.

          I'm sure we'd be interested in anything the usual suspects think they can contribute to the response, but they don't seem ready to engage constructively.

          Working behind the scenes is constructive.

          Knowing the high level departmental environment I am sure that Govt employees will be reaching out to this group to invite them to participate in planning etc, if they are not already doing so……let's hope the group takes up the invitation and works constructively and quietly for the good of NZ.

          That is my hopesmiley

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