*This story was originally published on RNZ and is republished with permission*
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to media after meeting with business leaders in Tāmaki Makaurau this morning.
Hipkins says Auckland is incredibly important to the New Zealand economy, and our gateway to the world.
He says his meeting with business leaders was positive and optimistic, and they shared areas where they want to see the Government doing more and some areas they want to see the Government doing less.
He will be meeting with unions and ethnic communities as well.
“I did want to make sure here in Auckland that I got off on the right footing here in New Zealand’s biggest city and I’m really encouraged by the meeting that I’ve just had.”
He says immigration settings have been kept under review and has not ruled out making more changes, but part of the conversation today was about getting more Kiwis into the workforce.
“We’ve got to get the balance right there.”
He says the relationship between business and government is really important and creating good jobs for families is what will help people.
“The rising tide lifts all boats.”
He says he got feedback on some of the things being done now, and the apprenticeship boost was really supported.
“Right the way across the workforce we’re seeing skill shortages … as a Government we’re working on addressing that at all levels.”
He says they also gave feedback on wanting certainty on some key government policy areas, and he will work to provide that but says speedy decisions will not always give the certainty that businesses are after.
“I think we should absolutely acknowledge that Auckland experienced more days of lockdown than the rest of the country.”
He says he will work with business and cultural sector leaders to “really get Auckland pumping”.
He says he won’t get ahead of the Cabinet conversation about the minimum wage which takes place every year, but minimum wage workers are among those who are really struggling.
Hipkins says this morning’s meeting was “big business” and this afternoon he will meet with small-business leaders.
He says economic forecasters will give you a range of scenarios for what we might see, but the Government will remain relentlessly focused on supporting New Zealanders.
He will now go away and digest what business leaders have told him.
“They’ve given me a lot of feedback, the conversation was really good, it was a two-way dialogue.”
He says this is only day two in the job for him and he won’t get ahead of decisions that still need to be made.
He acknowledges there’s a skilled labour shortage but says that’s the case in many other countries overseas as well.
“I’m not going to write the Budget or a tax policy on day two of the job. “
On Australia Day, he says “Australians are our great mates” but says that doesn’t mean we can’t give one another a hard time now and again.
He says Simon Bridges and himself have always had a good relationship and it was good to catch up.
“He’s looking much more relaxed these days.”
Hipkins says Bridges made a few observations and “I’ll let him share those if he wants to”.