Best job ideas in Budget round - English

Last updated 11:02 02/03/2009
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
THE 'A' TEAM: Stock Exchange chief executive Mark Weldon, leftm Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, second left and Prime Minister John Key, second right at the Employment Summit at Manukau today.
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
THE BOSS: John Key addresses the summit.
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
PUTTING HEADS TOGETHER: Stock exchange chief executive Mark Weldon, chair of the summit, with Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe..
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
THE FLOOR: Delegates listen to Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard.
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
KEY PLAYER: Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard told the summit he was prepared to lower interest rates further.

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The best ideas put forward at today's Jobs Summit will be considered seriously ahead of the Budget in May, Finance Minister Bill English told delegates.

"Your ideas are going to be put into the Budget round," he said.

The suggestions had to be realistic, however, he said New Zealand's economy was "small enough to turn on a 20 cent coin."

Mr English said the more than 200 delegates at the conference represented 80 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.


A shorter working fortnight and a cycleway were top of raft of ideas being debated at the summit.

High level sources say Prime Minister John Key is particularly enthusiastic about the cycleway, saying it will create jobs and boost tourism.

Other ideas being discussed in workshops at the Manukau Events Centre include tax rebates for employing people and Government grants of up to 10 percent of capital cost for export projects.

Mr Key opened the job summit saying the nation was "in uncharted waters".

"The world is experiencing the most dramatic economic downtown we have seen in our life times."


One of the ideas from the summit was for a four-day working week, however high level sources told that Mr Key rejected this, but was keen on a nine day fortnight for workers in the manufacturing industry.

The Government would fund it at the rate of $40 million per 10,000 workers.

A proposed $50 million cycleway built the length of the country would provide 3700 jobs and would take two years to build.

The Government is keen on it for its tourist potential.

The construction of the cycleway – which would start in Kaitaia and run to Bluff – would be supervised by the Department of Conservation.

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A walkway already exists.

After the opening session the delegates broke up into groups and are working their way through the ideas.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Alan Bollard, is prominent in one group.


In a power point presentation to the whole summit he said the recession was shaping up as "the biggest destruction of global wealth ever".

He said US$2 trillion had been credit-related losses, US$30 trillion on equity market losses, US$4 trillion on housing and US$3 trillion in lost output.

Dr Bollard said New Zealand's strengths included past strong growth and low unemployment. It had flexible product and labour markets and a floating exchange rate.

He said monetary policy was responsive, banking was sound and the Government accounts were strong.

"New Zealand has some strengths but also vulnerabilities," he said.

Treasury Secretary John Whitehead also delivered a warning saying they could not spend their way out of trouble.

Mr Whitehead warned against increasing debt.

"We are deluding ourselves if we think we can spend our way out of trouble," he said.

Using power point charts he warned worst case scenarios of Government spending saw debt grow to 80 percent of GDP.

That equated to $1000 of debt owed by every man woman and child.

Debt at that level became a threat to jobs in itself.

NZX CEO Mark Weldon, who is chairing the meeting, added the world was facing a recession that was not in any way conventional.

Mr Weldon said while the agenda of the conference had grown, it was fundamentally about jobs.

"It is also a real opportunity to grow muscle in the economy."

He said it was not a conventional recession "and a huge uncertainty about depth, the length and the shape."

As the delegates broke into work groups, Mr Weldon urged them to come up with "focussed, practical and workable recommendations" that would make an identifiable difference to employment.

For ideas to be accepted, they had to be able to make a difference within 24 months.


In his opening speech Mr Key said the delegates were "the doers".

"You are ready to commit to doing something, either by yourself or with others, to protect and create jobs in New Zealand."

The meeting was "not a convention of forecasters," he said.

"We will not gain anything today or in the months ahead if we become lost in hand-wringing and crystal-ball gazing about how bad things are or could be."

Mr Key said was in a better position than most other economies with banks in a stronger financial position than in other countries.

"We have not witnessed the wholesale collapse of productive sectors of our economy," he said.

"We have come through hard times before, and we know how it's done."

The job at the conference was not to promise the impossible.

"Unemployment will rise over the next year. We can all acknowledge that. But we can all play a part in lessening the blow."

Mr Key called for people to make sacrifices that will keep "our fellow Kiwis employed tomorrow and in the months ahead.

"What you do counts. It counts for Kiwi jobs."

Mr Key said his Government want ideas that will make a "real difference".

A role of the conference was to come up with practical achievable steps that can save and create jobs.

These will include policy initiatives that will need to be funded through the Government books.

"I'm open to policy proposals of this sort.

"But let me be clear, there are limitations to what the Government can responsibly fund."
New Zealand's books are in the red and debt was forecast to rise dramatically over the next few years.

"We have to get on top of that debt. If we don't our children and grandchildren will pay with reduced living standards."

Proposals aimed at the Government must pass a high hurdle.

The second set of ideas at the summit will be around laws and regulations that can be changed to remove red tape, lower barriers and back entrepreneurs.

"I can't promise you that all the proposals generated will make the cut. It would be irresponsible of me to do so. What I can promise you is that I don't come here with any ideological blinkers or any foregone conclusions. I have my eyes and ears open."

The Government understands how important it was to build confidence in the economy and what a difference urgency made.

"So you can be sure that your efforts today will be taken very seriously by me and my team."

He said the presence of delegates spoke of the Kiwi character.

"You are mucking in and putting your hands up for what could be a tough job," Mr Key said.

"That's what Kiwis do. We are not a country of whiners. We are not a country of slackers. We are not a country of selfish individuals.

"We are a gritty little country with the smarts and determination needed to weather this storm," he said.

He concluded: "So let's roll up our sleeves, pull together and get going."

- Stuff

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