COVID-19 lockdown wipes billions from New Zealand's economy

New forecasts released on Wednesday reveal the extent of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

The Reserve Bank believes $10 billion has already been wiped under alert level 4 and the full lockdown likely slashed 37 percent off New Zealand's economy for that four-and-a-half weeks.

Level 3 has brought some relief, but with businesses still under strict social distancing restrictions, in a month the Reserve Bank expects another $5 billion will be wiped. 

Economist Cameron Bagrie says many industries have taken "a bit of a king punch" for April and even when we do move down levels again the prospects aren't pretty.

"Alert Level 1 for 12 months is a bigger economic hit than the global financial crisis. Now that puts things in perspective."

Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens says the effects of COVID-19 are going to impact New Zealand's economy for a while.

"I think this is going to cast a long shadow for years. It'll take years for a full recovery in the economy to really take place."

One industry that's desperate to see restrictions lifted is the performing arts and venues, like amusement parks and concerts, which are worth $2.3 billion to the economy. 

NZ Events Association general manager Ségolène de Fontenay says the lockdown has been extremely hard for businesses in the industry.

"Businesses might have to fold, or they might have to leave the sector altogether because it's all getting far too hard."

The events industry is preparing a survival strategy to give to the Government which is expressing its "grave concerns".

But jobs are already being lost with official figures out today showing unemployment started rising in early March and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is only going to get worse.

"This one in 100 global and health crisis will contribute to unemployment rising, to that, there is no doubt."

But on Wednesday there was a bright spot with technology giant Microsoft choosing New Zealand as the place to build its next data centre.

Ardern says it shows the strong position New Zealand is in.

"International companies like Microsoft wouldn't be investing here, or looking to invest here, if they didn't have full confidence in the New Zealand economy."