Act Party leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to release its economic contingency plans as Auckland businesses brace for the possibility of extended lockdown.

And he says some form of compensation for businesses forced back into level 3 restrictions "for the public good" is necessary.

The Opportunities Party, meanwhile, wants a universal basic income (UBI) to "save ourselves a big administrative welfare headache".

Yesterday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he has met with Treasury officials to discuss a possible Auckland-targeted package, which could involve a wage subsidy extension for the region.

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"The reason I kept the $14 billion aside was in the event that this occurred, we hoped that it wouldn't," he said of the money left in the Covid-19 response fund.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said talks are being held over an Auckland-targeted economic package if the lockdown continues. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said talks are being held over an Auckland-targeted economic package if the lockdown continues. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In the meantime, however, Seymour wondered if Robertson could release the details of the Government's contingency plans.

"Because they've had three months to prepare since we came out of [the April] lockdown, where this kind of thing was foreseeable," he told the Herald today.

"Surely they must be prepared for this. And if they're just hustling now then are they taking it more seriously than they have for the last three months? Are they already planning on a longer lockdown?"

On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland would be moving to alert level 3 on the coronavirus response scale from midday Wednesday to midnight Friday.

The Super City was plunged back into a lockdown in response to four cases of community transmission with an unknown source.

It is estimated the current measures of Auckland at level 3 and the rest of the country at level 2 will cost the economy about $440 million per week.

"In principle the Government policy of lockdown is what disadvantages people, it may be caused by a virus which of course is not the Government's fault," Seymour said.

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The Epsom incumbent, whose electorate includes the retail hubs of Newmarket and Parnell, said some form of compensation for businesses is needed.

"People also need to be aware that the wage subsidy pays the wages, and from the point of view of business that is just one cost," he added.

Other costs - such as commercial leases - would begin to again weigh heavy on businesses.

"I suspect a lot of the commercial lease arrangements that people have come to aren't actually durable if there's going to be a further lockdown," Seymour said.

But some businesses and owners, he said, "are already bottomed out".

"It's a little bit like when you're absolutely buggered and the referee calls extra time and you've got to play another 20 minutes," he said.

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"This will be devastating because people have recovered and now they may not be able to ... It's very worrying to say the least."

TOP Party leader and former Treasury economist Geoff Simmons called for a universal basic income. Photo / Mark Mitchell
TOP Party leader and former Treasury economist Geoff Simmons called for a universal basic income. Photo / Mark Mitchell

TOP Party leader and former Treasury economist Geoff Simmons said Kiwis will need welfare to get by as the pandemic continues to rage overseas and "we know our borders aren't bulletproof".

"We know that lockdowns will come back into effect. We know that Kiwi businesses will suffer as a result ... So why over complicate it for ourselves? Let's implement a universal basic income immediately and save ourselves a big administrative welfare headache.

"We know that we need robust contact tracing and we know that's where our energy should be focused right now, not on the ins and outs of a complicated regional wage subsidy."

Simmons said experts had, for some time, been predicting a second outbreak of Covid-19 and some form of lockdown would return.

"The wage subsidy scheme is set to end in a few weeks, so you can believe that a lot of Kiwi businesses will be feeling uncertain right now about how to pay wages to staff especially as they're thrust into an immediate lockdown again.

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"This goes beyond Auckland too – the rest of the country is watching anxiously to confirm whether the rest of the nation will be back in lockdown shortly too. That stress, coupled with the end of the wage subsidy, isn't doing anyone any good."

He said a "full-pandemic-term UBI" would give Kiwis financial security.

"A UBI would see all Kiwis with cash in pocket every week, no questions asked, and eliminate the need for energy to be wasted on creating regional parameters for welfare."

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