One of New Zealand's biggest landowners is forgoing millions of dollars in rent and its chief says the lockdown is causing "enormous economic destruction" and he wants PM Jacinda Ardern to act.
Rolf Masfen of private investment businesses Masfen Group, founded by his father Peter, called for the Government to consider relaxing the alert level quickly.
Masfen Group owns retail and warehouse properties, medical centres on Auckland's North Shore and at Highbrook, Mission Bay's Eastridge shopping centre, bars and restaurants, offices and one of New Zealand's most iconic stations, Mt Linton in Southland.
"Net earnings are forecast at zero for the next 12 to 24 months as I assist nearly 200 tenants and thousands of their employees and their families to the fullest extent possible," Masfen said.
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"I am forgiving millions and millions of dollars in rent to help the community through this," Masfen said.
Ardern needed to understand "the immense economic destruction that New Zealand is currently undergoing and urgently", he said.
He urged the Government to "get as much of the economy going as is humanly possible.
"Don't wait for the Treasury figures to come through in a month's time, act urgently now. It will be too late in a month's time", Masfen said.
Ardern said yesterday saw the highest daily New Zealand death toll, which is a "sad and sobering reminder of the need to stay the course".
New Zealand has now recorded nine deaths in total – six from Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch – and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield cautioned it was likely there were more to come.
The number of global cases of Covid-19 sits at 1.95 million. There have been more than 123,000 deaths, while almost 500,000 people have recovered. Italy and the United States have both seen more than 20,000 people die, and the toll stands at more than 18,000 in Spain and more than 12,000 in the United Kingdom.
Masfen said the economic damage and ensuing debt burden from this crisis was unsustainable for New Zealand, which already has excessive private debt, reflecting concern also raised by the Reserve Bank about households' vulnerability to economic shocks.
Banks should be made to operate at no profit through the crisis and recovery, he said.
"They have profited immensely through the good times and should give back to the community through the tough times," he said, referring to banks which regularly made around $1b a year in New Zealand.
New Zealand's border should have been closed sooner "and now we are all paying the price. We try to stop animal and horticultural diseases at the border, it is unfortunate that we let so much c19 into New Zealand before the borders were closed."
Masfen blamed the World Health Organisation but said: "It is not too late to keep New Zealand afloat but the time to act is now. Remember that there is no healthcare system and no social welfare system without a strong economy to pay for them both.
"This is more of an economic crisis than it is just a health crisis. This is not a time to gain political brownie points, it is about what is best for New Zealand."
The Government's priority needed to focus on the economy, not just the people's physical health, he said.
"The social cost from the economic crisis will far and away exceed the current health cost if the current priorities are not adjusted appropriately. Hopefully for the sake of all New Zealanders, the economic crisis will be acted upon swiftly in the next few days. This is about safely getting as many businesses back to work as soon as possible, as opposed to endless debt-burdening handouts that New Zealand cannot afford," he said.
Joining business to get as many infrastructure projects and projects to benefit the public running as soon as possible was necessary, he said.
"We need to urgently get the economic wheels turning just as soon as humanly possible.
"The minimum wage needs to be lowered, not raised, to enable more people to be employed by businesses. Raising the minimum wage restricts business' ability to employ people. Council rates need to be lowered and not raised as they are no longer affordable and further restrict business' ability to employ people.
"Employment, employment, employment, it is the way out of the economic crisis," he said.
A huge amount of work was needed in a very short timeframe.
"Jacinda needs to get the best economic advice available. She is not currently getting that," Masfen said.
Meat processing plants were only running at 30 per cent, Masfen said, dangerously unsustainable for all farmers' revenue and animal welfare, as feed levels drop for all the animals held back on the farms. The meat processing plants must be allowed to operate at closer to capacity, he said.
Mt Linton, at around 12,000ha, is one of New Zealand's largest farms.