Jobseeker numbers top 190,000 as Jacinda Ardern asks for feedback on COVID-19 response

The Prime Minister is asking for public feedback on the Government's COVID-19 response, as new figures show jobseeker support is topping 190,000. 

In a video address uploaded by Vision Week, Jacinda Ardern urged people to tell the Government "what you think we should be doing" whether it be through social media, traditional media or Government channels. 

"My promise in return is this: that we're listening, that we will continue to do so, and that we will take action on the basis of what we hear... If you ever feel compelled, please, by all means, write to me - it could make all the difference."

It comes as new Treasury figures show jobseeker support reached 190,600 last Friday, up 1100 on the previous week, and although weekly growth remains below the peak of April during the lockdown, it has picked up in the last two weeks.

It coincides with the Government's wage subsidy scheme running out this week. But businesses that can prove 40 percent income loss because of COVID-19 can apply for an eight week extension.

Figures released to Newshub showed that by Tuesday, 664 people had been granted the Government's new welfare payment that provides up to $490 a week for those who have lost their jobs to COVID-19.

Retail card spending has been slightly above 2019 levels for the past three weeks, but when excluding spending on consumables like groceries - which was elevated throughout the alert levels - retail spending remains down compared to last year.

The Prime Minister said in her address that the Government is committed to stimulating the economy, and that three priorities - "clean, green and carbon-neutral" - will be "as important as ever" in her Government's COVID-19 response.

"Economically, we know we need to do more to raise productivity and diversify our economy... Keep telling us what you think we should be doing. Let us know when we're getting decisions right and when we're getting them wrong."

It's been 21 days since a case of COVID-19 was recorded in New Zealand, and the Government has been praised globally for it - but the country is now facing high debt to prevent the economy from collapsing.

The Government's latest figures revealed a deficit of $12.8 billion for the 10 months to April 30, which covers the period up to just after New Zealand moved down to COVID-19 alert level 3.

Between the end of February and the end of April, New Zealand's net debt increased by more than $19 billion - and as a share of GDP, net debt is now at 25.3 percent up from 19.2 percent at the end of February.

The Government unveiled a $50 billion fund in Budget 2020 to help with the economic response to COVID-19, a large chunk of which has been spent subsidising wages for companies hit hardest by the crisis.

Ardern said she's aware that New Zealanders will "have different views" on what the COVID-19 recovery should look like, because "unified does not mean uniform".

But she said the "unity" shown through "our collective health response" to COVID-19 "must continue".

"What does building back better look like? A chance to tackle problems we already know we had. Too many kids still go to school hungry. Too many still don't live in warm, dry homes. Too many still struggle with mental health."

She said there have been moments in history where people have been given the chance to "stop and reset" but argued that post-COVID-19 is different because it's not just one part of the system that has collapsed.

"We've been faced with the reality that our rapid development is unsustainable and therefore threatens development in itself... We aren't at a fork in a road - we're at a spaghetti junction. Multiple challenges are all colliding."

Ardern said she doesn't get the chance to read every letter she gets but makes a "pointed effort" to read every letter from children, who provide "a bit of a guide on whether we're doing enough to look above the horizon".