Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters wants COVID-19 alert level 1 now

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters wants alert level 1 now and believes the greatest threat to New Zealand is no longer COVID-19 but the economic fall-out. 

"What's the enemy we've got now? It's not COVID-19," Peters told Newstalk ZB. "It's the inability to turn this economy around with the speed we should be doing and as fast as possible."

The New Zealand First leader said the Government listened to health officials and got good results, but said we have been "too cautious for too long now" and that the country has "got to risk it and get going". 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday it could be a month before New Zealand shifts to alert level 1, and on Tuesday she said there had been "serious concern from New Zealand First that this was taking too long". 

But Ardern said the decision she announced on Monday was the "consensus view". 

Peters said he made his position clear during Monday's Cabinet meeting. He said Ardern "actually admitted at the Cabinet meeting that there was serious concern from New Zealand First that this was taking too long". 

Asked if New Zealand should be at alert level 1 today, Peters said: "Yes, I believe so."

The Deputy Prime Minister said the trans-Tasman travel 'bubble' should also be in place now, but the Prime Minister said on Tuesday those discussions are ongoing.  

Ardern signalled Australia may open its borders to New Zealand state-by-state. 

"A trans-Tasman 'bubble' can occur while we're at level 2 and I don't foresee any future challenges over the fact that we do have differing views around the Cabinet table," she said. 

"Ultimately though, we've made a balanced decision, one that weighs up our desire to open up the economy, but also not to risk going backwards."

It comes as the Ministry of Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand on Tuesday, after reporting no new cases the day before, or over the weekend. 

Gatherings can increase to 100 people from Friday noon onwards, which the Prime Minister said on Monday, is a reflection of how well New Zealand has dealt with the coronavirus. 

"The increase in gathering size means we now have some of the most permissive settings of any of the countries we compare ourselves to, including Australia."

But Peters thinks the economy needs more leniencies to get moving. 

He said Kiwis will have "concern about the state of their personal finances, about their family finances" and he said he's worried about the "despair and hopelessness that comes when people cannot see a way out."

"Hope is what we've got to make real in this country."

He also rubbished the suggestion New Zealand should have an extra holiday to make up for the ones lost during the lockdown and to help stimulate local tourism. 

"At this present time we've been in compulsory lockdown for far too long, people know that they want to be out there working... there's only one way out of this: think smart and work harder," Peters said.

"So, a day off when we've had weeks off is just not the right thing to be promoting as we speak."

The New Zealand First leader also took a crack at his coalition partner Labour's Auckland light rail project that was put on hold earlier this month due to COVID-19. 

During the 2017 election campaign, Labour promised to have the first stage of the project built by 2021, but the Government has yet to decide who will build it. 

Peters said he "said so from the beginning that it didn't make sense but we live in an environment where you've got to go into arrangements". 

"No, it doesn't make sense.... We speak common sense, with the greatest respect."

Starting work on light rail from Auckland CBD to the airport is written in Labour's confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.