Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launches new Business Advisory Council

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the formation of a new business council aimed at strengthening the relationship between business and Government. 

Ms Ardern made the announcement during a speech delivered to the business community in Auckland on Tuesday. 

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon will be chair of the council which aims to "build closer relationships between Government and business," a statement released by the Government reads. 

The council will enable "high-level free and frank advice to the Prime Minister on key economic issues," the statement adds. The council will also "create a vehicle to harness expertise from the private sector to inform the development of the Government's economic policies". 

Ms Ardern appears to have gone on the charm offensive following reports of business confidence dropping in New Zealand ever since the new Labour-led Government was sworn in. 

Former ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie has warned New Zealand's economy is "dangerously close" to stalling. The latest ANZ business outlook survey says firms' own activity expectations are close to zero, with investment employment intentions also low. 

"Growth 12 months ago was about three-and-a-half percent. The latest figures show we're in the two-and-a-half to three percent zone. But at the moment I think we're dangerously close to one-and-a-half and we're decelerating as opposed to accelerating," Mr Bagie said earlier this month. 

But Ms Ardern is fighting to maintain the Government's social and environmental message while also adhering to business needs. 

She told business leaders the new council will "provide a forum for business leaders to advise me and the Government and to join us in taking the lead on some of the important areas of reform the Government is undertaking." 

"The Council will report to me on opportunities it sees and identify emerging challenges. It will bring new ideas to the table on how we can scale up New Zealand businesses and grow our export led wealth," she said. 

The Prime Minister said she wants to "work closely with, and be advised by, senior business leaders who take a helicopter view of our economy, who are long term strategic thinkers who have the time and energy to lead key aspects of our economic agenda."

She said the council will "complement" the work the Government is already doing with the Small Business Council and business and union representative groups through the Tripartite Forum, which was announced by Ms Ardern in May last year. 

"My Government is keen to future-proof our economy, to have both budget sustainability and environmental sustainability, to prepare people for climate change and the fact that 40 percent of today's jobs will not exist in a few decades," Ms Ardern said at the time. 

The new council work will focus on "macro level economic strategy and active leadership on our economic agenda to build a more productive, inclusive and sustainable economy," Ms Ardern said at the Westpac business breakfast.  

Mr Luxon said he's looking forward to the challenge. He said the initiative is important because "building a better, more sustainable New Zealand is a cause well worth putting all our collective efforts and energy behind."

But business confidence hasn't been so low since March 2011, according to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) quarterly survey of business opinion for June. 

It said businesses are no longer expecting a recovery in the coming months, which is affecting their investment decisions and softening business intentions. 

A lift in the minimum wage is having the greatest impact on the retail sector, according to the report. Export sales have also softened in the last quarter and the recent decline in NZD is having an impact.