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A week in advocacy 

Business appeal rights needed
BusinessNZ wants appeal rights for Covid enforcement rules. The new Public Health Response Act allows warrantless searches of business premises and gives enforcement officers the power to shut down businesses.  BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope told the Finance & Expenditure select committee the Act should include appeal rights against any abuse of the powers.  The Act requires Parliament to review those powers every 90 days, but in 90 days Parliament will be adjourned for the election.  More is needed to safeguard human rights and property rights of businesspeople under this legislation, Kirk Hope says.

Exporters performing solidly
NZ’s primary sector exports have been performing solidly throughout the Covid period.  Exports to the EU and UK have fallen and results from the US and Canada are mixed, but exports to Asian destinations have grown, some significantly, during the Covid period.  Latest data (for 7-20 May) show NZ exports overall are actually 1% higher than the same period last year.  ExportNZ’s Catherine Beard says the results, particularly in dairy, horticulture, meat and wine, demonstrate the strength of NZ’s primary produce sector.

Scheme extensions welcomed
 The BusinessNZ network has welcomed extensions to the Government’s loan and wage subsidy schemes, saying they would help both employers and employees.  BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said pushing out the application deadline for the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme would give businesses more time to assess real levels of demand following the return to alert level 1.  He said many more workers would now be able to receive the wage subsidy, given the change in criteria allowing a further 40,000 businesses to be involved.  “The Government has listened to business feedback and responded to changing needs as the economic effects of the Civid-19 emergency continue,” Mr Hope said.

Arbitration on commercial rent
The Property Law Act is being amended to bring in a rental dispute system in the wake of Covid-19.  Tenants and landlords are both being squeezed - a Re-Leased survey shows 50% of retail tenants didn’t pay rent for April and May.  The dispute system requires compulsory arbitration if tenants and landlords can’t agree on temporarily changed contract terms.  Many have agreed to changed terms already - Re-Leased says around 13% of rent due in April and May has been credited or written off, and the NZ Council of Retail Property says 75% of its 5,000 retail tenants have been offered rental assistance.  Landlords are mostly offering rent reductions or deferrals comprising about 50% per cent of the normal rent.

Training money well-targeted
Money for vocational training is a well-targeted response to the Covid crisis, says BusinessNZ’s Rachel Simpson.  The Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund will pay the learning fees for many areas of vocational training for the next 2½ years, in addition to wage subsidy support for apprentices and trainees during 2020.  The policy will shore up the skills development pipeline and help prevent a fall in apprentices, often the result of economic downturn, Rachel Simpson says.  In contrast, Australia has seen a loss of 18,000 apprenticeships in the two months of the Covid crisis.  BusinessNZ’s counterpart, the Australian Industry Group, is calling for Australia to institute a similar support scheme for vocational training.

More power to stop development
Business is concerned that the latest RMA amendment Bill - which allows climate change to be included in planning decisions - gives councils more power to prevent development.  Business organisations have raised their concerns with the environment select committee, saying the change unnecessarily duplicates other environmental legislation, while the RMA’s inability to facilitate development is still not being addressed.  They say the Bill shouldn’t be progressed through Parliament before the Randerson-led comprehensive RMA review has been received.


Business Update is a weekly update of activity and advocacy by the BusinessNZ Network

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