Coronavirus: Judith Collins explains why you don't need to panic-buy toilet paper

Judith Collins wants Kiwis to know there's not going to be a toilet paper shortage.

When the first confirmed New Zealand case of the coronavirus COVID-19 was revealed a week ago, some New Zealanders went into panic mode, rushing to supermarkets to stock up on supplies.

The next morning there were queues outside stores in Auckland, and the number one item on preppers' shopping lists appeared to be toilet paper. Photos showed empty shelves where it used to be, meaning many would have missed out. 

Experts' advice to chill out was ignored by National Party MP David Bennett, who told listeners of a Hamilton radio station they "should be out there panic-buying" food and other items, in case they catch the disease and need to go into isolation. 

"If you're in Government and you're in Parliament your job is probably to ease people's fears and that, but I don't believe in this case you should," he told FreeFM. "The reality is you should stock up."

David Bennett.
David Bennett. Photo credit: RNZ/supplied

In contrast, fellow National MP Judith Collins said people need to "be very calm".

"I'm not into panicking myself... I would remind everybody that New Zealand actually produces toilet paper and there's no reason to get all excited because there's a whole place down in Kawerau that just does that. Like, pushing it all out." 

Purex has a factory in Kawerau, and even has an entire page on its website dedicated to telling the story of how it set up in nearby Kaingaroa Forest during the Depression, nearly 90 years ago, and started producing "the first local toilet roll that was both soft and strong" in the 1950s.

"In 2014 we moved all of our toilet roll conversion to the Kawerau factory - the same place that has been making the tissue mother reels since 1955. This meant that Purex was now made from start to finish on one site.

Labour MP Willie Jackson, appearing alongside Collins on The AM Show, hit back at the National Party's criticism of the Government's response to the crisis. 

It's not a game, you know? ... We actually, seriously, have to work together. I want to work with Judith Collins who knows her community, who can calm her community. We do, seriously. We don't play politics on this. She knows her community... We look after each other."

Judith Collins and Willie Jackson.
Judith Collins and Willie Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

National leader Simon Bridges has repeatedly accused the Government of having no plans.

"Telling people to wash hands & tinkering with the jobseekers' stand down period isn't a plan," he tweeted on Thursday. 

Every one of Bridges' tweets this past week about the coronavirus has focused on the potential economic impacts. 

Jackson criticised Bennett's comments, without naming names, keen to avoid being accused of politicising the response himself. 

"People go into panic mode - we need calmness with this, not hysterical MPs urging panic out there. I won't say which party."

Bennett has since admitted his comments were "not helpful".

"All New Zealanders should be following advice from public health officials," he told Newshub.