Grant Robertson deflects blame after Australian pundit claims Jacinda Ardern is 'pushing NZ economy off a cliff'

The Finance Minister has defended his stewardship of New Zealand's economy after an Australian pundit said our Government had "pushed it off a cliff" during the COVID-19 crisis.

Responding to economics writer Adam Creighton's brutal article in conservative newspaper The Australian, Grant Robertson said "everyone is entitled to their opinion" - but believes inaction by successive governments across several decades is to blame for poor productivity figures.

Creighton's article on Wednesday savaged our Government's "draconian response" to combating the coronavirus, claiming it had left New Zealand's "public finances in tatters".

"No national leader has been as feted as Jacinda Ardern during this pandemic. But while she might have popular support, the facts are she is pushing the NZ economy off a cliff," he wrote.

Creighton cites figures showing New Zealand sits fourth-last in labour productivity growth and last for multi-factor productivity growth in the OECD as the basis for these claims.

But in an interview with Magic Talk's Peter Williams on Thursday morning, Grant Robertson defended his management of the economic crisis, saying productivity has been a problem for as many as 40 years.

He admitted he hadn't read Creighton's piece, but said "from what I've heard about the article, I'd disagree with a bit of it - but obviously people are entitled to their opinion".

"When it comes to productivity, that's been a decades-long challenge in New Zealand - if you took that back a couple or even three or four decades, you'd find New Zealand moving down that list in terms of how we go on productivity," he continued.

"Really what productivity is about is whether we produce high value for each hour that we work as a people; New Zealand has really struggled with that, and ultimately there's a lot of things to do to repair the damage of not having got on top of that over decades.

"These aren't new challenges, they're ones that are in sharp relief with COVID-19, and we've got a series of plans and investments to try and get on top of them."

Challenged by Williams on what these plans were, Robertson said investments in skills and training, infrastructure and research and development included in the Budget were good examples.

The Finance Minister says a range of projects to grow the economy are "not far away at all" and will be "in front of Cabinet very shortly for approval".

The Government has spent around $11 billion subsidising Kiwis' wages during the crisis, and almost $1 billion in Government-funded interest-free loans have been paid out to small businesses. It also unveiled a $50 billion fund to respond to COVID-19.

But in his piece for The Australian, Creighton wrote that widespread praise of Ardern and support of the measures she imposed ignored the effects her decisions have had on our economy.

New Zealand's unemployment rate is forecasted to peak at 9.8 percent this September, before recovering thereafter - but statistics show Australia's in an even worse position, with the Reserve Bank of Australia predicting a rise in unemployment of 10 percent.

The vast majority of New Zealanders back the Government's decision to put the country into lockdown - with a recent Newshub-Reid Research poll showing nine out of every 10 Kiwis supported the call.