Jacinda Ardern attributes Microsoft's big New Zealand data centre venture to 'safe haven advantage'

The Prime Minister is attributing Microsoft's big data centre investment in New Zealand to our "safe haven advantage" and the decision to "go hard and go early" on COVID-19. 

The US multinational technology company announced plans on Wednesday to establish its first data centre region in New Zealand to deliver digital cloud services in the country, joining 60 other regions across the globe. 

It will enable both small and large businesses to store their data in New Zealand, which Jacinda Ardern said is an issue that's often been raised with the Government. 

"This is a hugely welcome development," she said during her daily press conference. "It serves as a signal to the world that New Zealand is open for business and quality investment."

The investment has also been welcomed by large New Zealand companies such as Spark and dairy giant Fonterra, with both expressing optimism about digital expansion and the potential to create job opportunities. 

"Our decision to go hard and go early on a health front on COVID-19 has been our best economic response," Ardern said. "Now it's about positioning New Zealand to recover and building on investment opportunities such as this one."

The earmarked data centre region will still be subject to the usual regulatory processes, and no details have been provided yet about when or where it will be established. 

But the Prime Minister is optimistic about it and believes the announcement is a reflection of New Zealand's reputation and the way the Government has handled the COVID-19 crisis. 

"It is my view that by tackling the virus we have positioned our economy to be able to rebuild ahead of many others globally. That is our safe haven strategic advantage."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand has topped an international ranking of how well the Government communicated during the crisis, while the United States has trailed behind in last place. 

"International companies like Microsoft wouldn't be investing here or looking to invest here if they didn't have full confidence in the New Zealand economy, and offer a safe place for operation in both the health and business sense," Ardern said. 

"Today's announcement also represents a vote of confidence in New Zealand's digital future... New Zealanders will be able to access the scale and security of cloud services offered by a major global provider in a way that hasn't been offered before in New Zealand."

Ardern said the Government has worked closely with Microsoft on initiatives like the Christchurch Call and that officials have "good personal relationships" with senior executives. 

Minister for Government Digital Services Kris Faafoi echoed Ardern's sentiment that it shows New Zealand has the advantage of being known as a global "safe haven". 

"Our Government took quick and decisive action responding to COVID-19, and that is being recognised globally, with the likes of this decision by Microsoft," Faafoi said. 

"This means job opportunities in the near term for our construction industry and, in the longer term, for our ICT industry and local innovators."

But the Government's decision to keep New Zealand under strict alert level 3 rules has been criticised by the Opposition who say it's not sustainable to keep big industries like retail shut for so long. 

The Ministry for Social Development reported that a further 6000 people went on the benefit last week, bringing the total increase of Kiwis receiving it to around 28,000 in just four weeks. 

Microsoft is one of three global technology providers, along with Amazon Web Services and Google, providing cloud computer processing and storage capabilities through global networks.

The Government, businesses and residents use services hosted on these platforms every day, such as Xero, Payroll, Netflix, and eBay.

New Zealand is currently only able to access these providers via their offshore data centres, for example in the United States or Australia.