Rocket Lab founder encourages Kiwis to think big in rebuilding economy after COVID-19 crisis

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck is encouraging New Zealanders to have big and bold ideas to rebuild the country's economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says Kiwis have passed the first challenge of flattening the virus' curve, but another bigger test is "yet to begin".

"There's another curve that has a negative inflection point that's about a three-month lag or hysteresis behind COVID-19, and that's the economic curve," he said during an interview on Rebuilding Paradise with Paul Henry.

Beck believes New Zealand is at the beginning of that curve, which will present "a real challenge" for the country.

"Really, we have to attack that economic curve with the same verve, resources and commitment that we've attacked the COVID-19 curve, because it has the potential to cause equal harm to our society and our wellbeing."

But he says there's now an opportunity to reset the economy.

"Never waste a good crisis. Stuff goes bad all the time, but the best thing to do in a bad situation is leverage it, and I think New Zealand has a huge opportunity to do that by thinking really, really boldly.

"I think it would be a great loss if we reverted back to doing the same things we've always done, as opposed to really thinking big and being bold with the next steps in how we rebuild our country and our economy."

One way to leverage the crisis is to take advantage of technology and how it's become a staple in people's lives during lockdown, Beck says.

"The tyranny of distance has somewhat shrunk when everyone is on Zoom, but that really presents a huge opportunity for New Zealand in a lot of respects because a number of those industries where that was a prerequisite is no longer so.

"I think that presents probably one of the largest opportunities for a small island nation to leverage the technologies to move into different fields."

Another important aspect for Beck is to "attack the highest order bit", meaning new programmes should start at the top so activity is stimulated down and throughout the supply chain.

He says while he was speaking to US government representatives on Wednesday about how the space industry will fare during the pandemic, his advice to them was to not support just one segment of the supply chain.

"There's no point in stimulating one sector of the market that's relatively far down the chain. The best thing to do, of course, is to stimulate programmes. So create programmes which in turn build spacecraft, which in turn require launch, which in turn require us to support our supply chain, and our supply chain to go down to the cafeteria to buy coffee."

In February, the Rocket Lab team won a NASA contract to be the provider for a small satellite mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway - an orbiting outpost astronauts will visit before descending to the surface of the Moon in a landing system as part of NASA's Artemis program.

While Beck appeared excited about going to the moon, he also says he has a personal goal to land on Venus.

"One of the most probable places to find at least the markers or possible microbial life is the atmosphere of Venus. So I see that as humanity's greatest treasure hunt. That's a programme we're moving forward on to try and get a probe into the atmosphere of Venus.