COVID-19: Simon Bridges and others react to Government's financial package

Simon Bridges says he "expected more" of the Government's $12.1 billion COVID-19 economic stimulus package - but the PM says the country needs "unity not politics". 

"It's going to be a very tough winter indeed. I would have expected more, faster, better - it's very confused priorities," the Opposition leader told Newshub.

The National Party leader said the multi-billion-dollar bail-out is not enough, and is more for beneficiaries than businesses and workers.

It's a sentiment shared by ACT Party leader David Seymour, who said it was "disappointing" to see the Government make permanent changes amid a crisis.

"It may be important to boost benefits as a form of stimulus during a crisis, but the crisis does not justify permanent benefit increases," he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Bridges in Parliament the package is a response to an extraordinary event - and it shouldn't be politicised.

"There are moments in our history when it is not business as usual - when New Zealanders expect us to come together; when we need unity, not politics," she said.

"Today, Mr Bridges, is one of those days." 

The $12.1 billion Business Continuity Package was announced on Tuesday afternoon by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

It represents 4 percent of New Zealand's GDP and includes sick leave, a huge boost for the health sector and tax relief changes.

Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters likened the current pandemic situation to "other great global disruptions - like Depression and War". 

"What got the country through those dark periods was a shared sense of self- sacrifice, a belief in ourselves, and community. Now we draw upon those strengths again."

The Green Party says the package will help families and businesses to prioritise health amid a global pandemic.

The financial boost includes $2.8 billion for income support, with a $25 permanent increase to benefits. The Winter Energy Payment will be doubled.

The extra cash is being celebrated by Greens co-leader Marama Davidson.

"The next few months are going to be tough for everyone, particularly people with few resources to fall back on," said Davidson in a statement.

"Strengthening our social safety net with increases to benefits, the winter energy payment, and in-work support will help people support their families, pay their bills, put money back into local business and the community." 

But Green Party candidate Ricardo Menendez said on Twitter it was disappointing the Government didn't increase the benefit more.

"A recession of this proportion requires more than doing the absolute minimum on welfare."

Federated Farmers is welcoming the Government on a "decisive and pragmatic response to an unprecedented situation", while Business NZ says the Government will "substantially help businesses keep operating through the period of the coronavirus outbreak". 

Greenpeace executive director Dr Russel Norman says the package "provides essential and rapid support to those who are most vulnerable". 

The package includes $5.1 billion in wage subsidies for businesses across all sectors, available immediately. It also includes a $100 million redeployment package to help employees train to work in other industries.

On top of that is $2.8 billion for business tax changes, including a provisional tax threshold increase and writing off interest on some late payments on tax and $126 million for COVID-19 sick leave and isolation support.

The total increase for income support and beneficiaries is $2.8 billion.