Jacinda Ardern's Business Advisory Council says Australia is handling impacts of COVID-19 better than NZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and Green Party leader James Shaw.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and Green Party leader James Shaw. Photo credit: Getty

Australia is handling the COVID-19 impact better than New Zealand when it comes to rebuilding the economy, the chair of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council says.

Fraser Whineray, also Fonterra's chief operating officer, has written a letter to Jacinda Ardern saying Australia was ahead of the "wellbeing Bledisloe", adding New Zealand risks being a less desirable place to live with "substantially less wellbeing".

"Looking forward, because of the way Australia is approaching the next two stages it is likely to go well in front," Whinerary said in the letter.

"To avoid the endemic problem with the public sector's misallocation of New Zealanders' resources held by the Government in non-core activity and low productivity within the public sector we need a very strong business in involvement alongside central Government."

He said New Zealand risked aggravating the economic "slide" if the "best team possible" wasn't martialed for recovery and reform.

"We are not talking about alert level settings. Rather this is about the structures and diverse capability that will directly address both recovery and reform. 

"All of the advice we have provided since formation in October 2018 is now more important in this new global and national situation than when originally proposed."

Last month, former Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly told the Epidemic Response Committee the economic health of the country cannot be overshadowed.

Another way the Government could shield businesses and workers from an economic slump is to follow Australia and give cash injections to businesses, O'Reilly suggested.

He said the Government will need to figure out how to ensure small businesses don't fold.

"Businesses would really understand the Government has their back and enable them to build confidence to grow and it will support the public health of our nation."

During last week's Budget announcement, the Government announced an extension of the wage subsidy to help keep Kiwi businesses afloat.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

"It will give firms and their workers some breathing space, while they come to terms with the new business environment," Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.

"Employers who have received money through the current wage subsidy will be able to apply for the extended subsidy if they meet the new eligibility criteria but they will need to submit a new application."

Since the Budget announcement, other suggestions floated to help rebuild New Zealand's economy include a four-day working week and an extra public holiday.

Thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and Fletchers Building announced on Wednesday it also plans to lay off 10 percent of their workforce - about 1000 jobs.