COMMENT:

The Reserve Bank has fired its first shot in what is shaping up as an historically unprecedented battle to maintain confidence in the economy.

Some will say it has moved late, and certainly the Bank had stayed surprisingly relaxed in its messaging until as recently as last week.

But the situation has changed rapidly. The response from our Government and others around the world has escalated quickly.

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Optimism has faded just as fast but it is vital we do not descend in to panic.

Cutting the cash rate to 0.25 per cent, putting new capital requirements on hold and flagging the possibility quantitative easing (sometimes described as printing money) are drastic measures.

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Maintaining confidence in financial system is key to riding out coronavirus economic shock.

As we saw in the 2008 global financial crisis, and as history tells us about the crash of 1929 and Great Depression, fear and panic quickly become self-fulfilling drivers of wealth destruction.

Some of the points made earlier by the Reserve Bank, about limited impact monetary policy will have to support the economy in this kind of shock, still hold truth.

Interest rates are already low and monetary is a blunt tool that doesn't necessarily target those who most need help.

The stimulatory flow through the economy can take months, while this crisis is more immediate.

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On that point, the fast and socially responsible action by the major retail banks to pass through all of these cuts is hugely helpful.

But an enormous and innovative package of fiscal stimulus will be needed - and by all accounts is coming - from Government.

The Reserve Bank's primary task in times like these is to maintain the stability of the financial system - at all costs, with whatever tools it has at its disposal.

We heard a clear message from Governor Adrian Orr when at the RBNZ press conference this morning.

The economic impact of this remains fluid and almost impossible to quantify - but will be severe

Orr has reassured that the banking system remains strong and local debt markets are not panicked.

The RBNZ still has an option on asset purchasing (QE) if more liquidity needs to be injected.

It's a hugely difficult balancing act but, after the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, strong leadership from the Reserve Bank Governor will be absolutely vital to confidence.

We are in a confidence game now.

The brutal reality is that the spread of the Coronavirus will get worse before it gets better.

But it remains a specific event. It will pass and we must ensure the economy remains strong enough to rebuild quickly when the time comes.

And we should remember that the economy is a living, breathing thing - it is all of us, employers and workers supporting families and children.

We need to keep working and spending, doing things and living - albeit within new safety parameters and guidelines.

We will get through this if we look after each other.