Coronavirus: Risk of inequity growing thanks to COVID-19 - Finance Minister Grant Robertson

Finance Minister Grant Robertson believes the Government is doing all it can to support beneficiaries in the same way it's supporting the business sector.

New Zealand beneficiaries are receiving just $25 extra a week in their pockets, with the Ministry of Social Development receiving 70,000 applications for food grants in just a week.

Roberston says people on the margins of society and low-income earners will feel the full effects from COVID-19 - and there's a risk of inequity growing.

However, he says $30 million has been spent on food security and availability.

"Nobody should go hungry in New Zealand at any time."

Robertson credits the work of community groups and Māori health providers such as Whānau Ora who've sent out 100,000 care packages to whanau during the lockdown.

"It's a partnership and we've just got to keep building on it."

More than $10 billion has also been paid out of the wage subsidy scheme to help save thousands of jobs across the country.

Fletcher Building - owners of the disputed land development at Ihumātao - has received almost $70 million from the Government's wage subsidy fund. That's despite reporting earnings after tax of $259 million last year.

Robertson says he is not here to defend Fletchers and the way they operate.

"All we wanted to do is make sure is that those thousands of tradies were able to keep feeding their whānau and have jobs."

This week the media industry was also thrown a lifeline, with Minister of Broadcasting Kris Faafoi announcing a $50 million bailout package with a promise of more to come in the next Budget.

That's in addition to the tens of millions of dollars in wage subsidies already received by some of New Zealand's leading media organisations, including NZME, MediaWorks and Stuff.

Robertson says the media industry is coming to terms with the immediate loss of advertising revenue.

"We are looking to the future - and there will be further support around journalism. Watch this space for greater support around quality journalism and the organisations that bring that."

In terms of the Māori response to COVID-19 recovery, Labour's Māori ministers are leading the charge in consulting with iwi and hapū to see what a Māori recovery strategy looks like.

"One of the first to all of this is around unemployment and around training and re-training," Robertson says.

There's also a chance to build on current Māori employment models like He Poutama Rangatahi and Mana in Mahi.

"Now we've got to go even further and deeper into that work to make sure that it's a genuine recovery programme."

There's been recent discussion around reviving the Ministry of Works to help secure jobs and the construction industry. The Ministry of Works used to undertake most construction work across the country, including roading and power stations.

Robertson says the Government currently spends $40-50 billion on procurement or on contracting out services.

"There is an argument for the fact that we do actually need to manage the process more effectively and efficiently."

Robertson wants to see more emphasis placed on employers training apprentices.

"If you get a government contract you actually need to be taking on apprentices and doing the training."

The Hui