Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Minister for Finance, presented the 2021 Budget to over 60 local business community members on Wednesday, 28th July at Napier’s East Pier Hotel.

Hon Grant Robertson was joined by Hon Meka Whaitiri, MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, and Hon Stuart Nash, MP for Napier, who supported Minister Robertson in sharing their plans for the 2021 Budget.

Minister Robertson’s belief in social justice and a desire to see every New Zealander achieve their potential shone through in the discussion. He spoke about the government’s actions on COVID-19, supply chain challenges for import and export, housing, economic recovery, and what these factors mean for our region.

Minister Robertson acknowledged that all governments had dropped the ball on providing adequate housing, provincial investment, and health in the past two decades. This budget was drafted to begin the process of addressing these issues.

Attendees put the tough questions to the Ministers, seeking answers on how the government will tackle staffing shortages and lack of skilled labour. Audience members shared frustration with continually increasing business costs (for example, minimum wage and sick leave allowance increases).

Minister Robertson met these questions with grace, understanding, and empathy for the plight of SME’s in Hawke’s Bay and called on Minister Nash, in his role as Minister for Small Business, to attest to the government’s earnest efforts to minimise adverse effects on small business in New Zealand. Ministers Robertson and Nash detailed government initiatives that focus on transitioning business into eCommerce and automation, such as increasing access to training and the impact of social wealth and social health on increased productivity in the sector.

Minister Robertson highlighted that instead of sectors like tourism and export aiming to get back to a pre-COVID-19 normal, we should instead ask, “how can normal be better?”. This budget is designed to strike a balance between the greatest need, long-term goals that the government is working towards, and building a better New Zealand for the future.

On the high level of debt incurred by the government in response to the pandemic, Minister Robertson mused that “what’s the point of having an umbrella if we don’t use it when it rains?”. While our national debt is predicted to reach 43%, New Zealand has fared better than many nations worldwide, such as the US and Great Britain, who are sitting at 100% debt.

For information on future events hosted by the Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce, see our website.

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