Amy Adams explains COVID-19 Recovery role, looking at new ways to support vulnerable Kiwis

Amy Adams has explained her new COVID-19 Recovery portfolio is about overseeing a cohesive strategy to get New Zealand out of economic chaos and to support our most vulnerable.

Adams, who is currently the MP for Selwyn but who will go list-only at the 2020 election, is back at number 3 in the National Party rankings after rescinding her decision to retire. She has justified the reversal by saying all hands are needed on deck to help get New Zealand's wheels turning again following COVID-19's economic destruction.

The pandemic forced New Zealand's border to be closed, the country to shut most businesses and go into lockdown, and trade routes to be disrupted. As a result, unemployment is expected to increase to just under 10 percent by September and many companies to go under. 

Adams told The AM Show that during this economic crisis, a fully-thought-through plan was necessary. 

"We are going to make sure when we approach this challenge, we approach it with a single, integrated, completely developed plan that is ready to be delivered. Not a series of disparate announcements that I don't think hang well together with a cohesive strategy," she said.

"So that is my job. My job is to make sure that across all 55 MPs, who are all working incredibly hard in their own areas, that work comes together in a way that is comprehensive, and is well-thought-through, and, more importantly, is ready to roll."

Since March, when the full wrath of COVID-19 began to emerge, the current Coalition Government has made numerous announcements of schemes and programmes it is putting in place to try and cushion the economic blow. That includes a wage subsidy initiative, a new online recruitment tool, and enabling more loans for businesses. It also pinpointed the development of new infrastructure as necessary to stimulating the economy.

On Monday, the Government announced workers who have lost their jobs to COVID-19 will be eligible for tax-free weekly payments of up to almost $500 a week for 12 weeks. New National Party leader Todd Muller called that "ill-defined and ill-directed" and said there should be a stronger focus on helping businesses.

Adams told The AM Show the National Party plan would prioritise creating jobs and keeping people in them. However, she said there will still be work on supporting the unemployed and hinted the party may propose changes to how we look after vulnerable Kiwis. 

"What we are going to do is approach this absolutely as an economic crisis, but also, we are going to think about it in terms of the ways we support our vulnerable New Zealanders. The system for supporting our vulnerable is under immense pressure and that is going to continue to escalate," she said.

"It is not only an opportunity, but a necessity, to stop and think about how we do that well in this country given the scale of what we are going to face. That is just one aspect of this, I see many aspects of this."

As of May 15, there were 350,735 people on a main benefit, up from 302,023 on March 20. In terms of the Jobseeker Support benefit, there were 188,432 on May 15, up from 145,006 on March 20.

Adams said the "huge numbers" of people entering the welfare system - many for the first time - would have an "amazing impact not only on the system's ability to deliver, but much more importantly on those people and the mental health and the impact of that". 

"I think if we just try and shovel more people through the system we have got, that is a recipe for failure.

"[Social Development spokesperson] Louise Upston and I have already started talking about ways in which we are going to need to think about this differently."

Adams wouldn't go into detail about her ideas, saying she would work with her colleagues on them first.