By RNZ News
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, government ministers and public service chief executives will take a 20 percent pay cut for the next six months.
She said it acknowledged New Zealanders who were on wage subsidies, taking pay cuts, or losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
“We feel acutely the struggle that many New Zealanders are facing and so too do the people that I work with on a daily basis,” she said.
- Fiji government welcomes village lockdowns
- Australian, NZ and Pacific journalism schools face Covid-19 challenges
- RNZ coronavirus timeline
“This was always just going to be an acknowledgement of the hit that … many New Zealanders are taking right now.”
She said she knew the decision to take a paycut would not affect the government books, but leadership had to come from the top.
Today’s NZ government media briefing. Video: RNZ
Ardern announced the cut at the Covid-19 government briefing this afternoon.
“I acknowledge my colleagues, both in the executive but also the colleagues we work with in the public service for the decision that was taken today.”
Bridges to take part
National Party leader Simon Bridges had been told of the pay cut decision, and that he indicated he would take part, she said.
She said public service leaders felt acutely about the struggles many New Zealanders were facing.
“It also stands alongside many actions taken by many people – private sector, citizens – to tackle the health and economic challenges of Covid-19.”
“Neighbours looking out for one another, rent freezes and landlords who are supporting tenants. Things like the winter energy payment and benefits that are helping those who are on restricted incomes to keep warmer and well.
“New Zealanders who are staying home to save lives. The student army who are delivering groceries to over 65s, and Ministry of Health officials who are in charge of mandatory quarantine which I have received a message about their professionalism and exceptional work.
“So many examples of people showing what others meant to them and doing their bit in our effort to stamp out Covid-19 and show a little bit of kindness along the way.”
She said the economic package now totalled more than $23 billion, including the wage subsidy that had paid out over $9 billion to 1.5 million New Zealanders.
$3bn tax break
The government today also announced a $3bn tax break for small businesses.
Ardern said the government was not considering pay cuts for essential workers, nor would New Zealanders consider that appropriate.
ACT Leader David Seymour called for the cut to be extended to all MPs, and had drafted legislation to allow that to happen.
“All members of Parliament should have the opportunity to show leadership and solidarity with workers and businesses.
“The pay cut announced today must apply to all MPs, but it’s constitutionally inappropriate for the Prime Minister to cut the pay of those holding the government accountable,” he said in a written statement.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes welcomed the cut, and said it was the right thing to do.
“I am proud of the way the public service workforce has mobilised to respond to one of the biggest challenges New Zealand has ever faced. Many are volunteering to do more than their normal duties and coming up with innovative ideas and solutions to get the job done,” he said.
The Commissioner and the Deputy State Services Commissioner, whose salaries are set by the Remuneration Authority, also committed to a 20 percent pay cut.
20 new cases of Covid-19
There have been 20 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand in the past 24 hours, with no further deaths reported.
The 20 new cases are made up of six confirmed cases and 14 probable cases, bringing the total number of cases to 1386.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were now 16 significant clusters related to the coronavirus. The latest cluster is connected to an aged care facility in Auckland.
He said 13 people were in hospital, with three in ICU, two of which were in a critical condition in North Shore and Dunedin Hospitals.
“We now have 728 reported cases of people who have recovered from Covid-19 infection, that’s an increase of 100 from yesterday.”
Dr Bloomfield said he was aware of a death in Invercargill that had been reported to be connected to Covid-19, but he could not confirm if it was. The Ministry of Health was looking into it.
“We are seeking further information at the moment and until I have full information we are not in the position to confirm the cause of death of that man.
Possible community death
Dr Bloomfield said if officials were confident the death was from Covid-19, then it will be the first death in the community rather than in hospital.
Dr Bloomfield said 115 Covid-19 cases in New Zealand were health care workers, but less than five people were confirmed to have been infected by a patient they were caring for.
He said 2100 tests were processed yesterday, and there were currently 649 active cases.
This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.
- If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP – don’t show up at a medical centre.