MBIE’S COVID-19 response

MBIE was one of the first New Zealand government agencies to face the challenges of COVID-19 given the presence of our offshore visa processing office in Beijing, which needed to be shut down back in January. Since then, we have played an integral leadership role in supporting the Government's ‘Response’ effort and the ‘Recovery’ and ‘Rebuild’ components.

This links to our purposeGrow New Zealand for All, Hīkina Whakatutuki – which guides us in everything we do.

We were responsible for, or played a significant role, in five All of Government (AoG) workstreams:

  • Service Delivery
  • Essential Services
  • Supply Chain and Infrastructure
  • Economic
  • Border.

Our response in numbers

Supporting New Zealanders

  • 4,100 queries about wage subsidy and leave support were received
  • 3,700 enquiries to Price Watch. The products with the most enquiries were food products, face masks, sanitiser and cigarettes
  • 28,000 email and 15,000 phone call queries about essential services
  • 3,284 calls answered on the Government Helpline Ministry of Social Development overflow.
  • 2,900 calls to the Wage Subsidy line
  • 2,400 calls to the MBIE-operated Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade NZ Consular Division line.
  • 6,700 calls to the Employment Services contact centre

Providing context and information

  • 50 papers were produced for Cabinet during the Response phase
  • Over 2.25m views on business.govt.nz
  • 452 requests for COVID-19 related information were responded to, including OIAs and Parliamentary Questions
  • 3,683 messages to the MBIE corporate social media channels, up by 800%
  • 481,525 visits to Employment.govt.nz (an increase of 83%)
  • The Business Boost tool received 102,934 views in 3 months
  • Over 600 media enquiries received and responded to
  • CERT NZ had 826 incidents reported in April 2020 – up from 407 average
  • 500 MBIE people were seconded to the all-of-government response

Housing and helping

Temporary Accommodation Service (TAS) supported:

  • 1,592 registered households, including
  • 790 households placed into TAS accommodation

MBIE’s immediate response

Service delivery – Following key announcements, government agencies were required to triage and manage critical services. MBIE was the lead agency for the AoG workforce workstream which helped agencies define their key services and established criteria for assessing what was a priority in the running of the country in an emergency or alert status.

Essential services – MBIE quickly established and supported the Essential Services regime for the duration of Alert Level 4, supporting the Director General of Health and government decision-making on ‘essential services’.

Supply Chain and Infrastructure – Throughout the response effort, MBIE was primarily responsible for maintaining the provision of critical national infrastructure services including energy, water, telecommunications, waste, supermarkets and freight/ transport. MBIE also worked closely with a variety of stakeholders and other government agencies to ensure the continued safe and secure delivery of essential goods across New Zealand.

Economic – MBIE’s economic work programmes were heavily focused on the immediate COVID-19 response and recovery.

Border – MBIE managed border restrictions set by the Government by managing the flow of people across the border, including the exemptions regime and supporting evacuation and repatriation flights. Additionally, MBIE supported border compliance operations through the AoG Community Compliance Centre.

In addition to work on the AoG response, MBIE prioritised essential work, and redeployed our people to respond to the pandemic. This included:

Logos of the 26 partner Crown entities

Temporary Accommodation Service – The TAS team sourced accommodation for those who could not self-isolate, including New Zealanders, those returning home and international visitors. TAS also worked closely with the NZ Police and the Ministry of Health to identify suitable accommodation that could be used for quarantine purposes.

Price Watch – Due to the shopping restrictions in the alert levels, MBIE established the Price Watch service to help understand and monitor alleged price gouging. Over 3,700 email enquiries were received during COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4 (92% of these were received during Alert Level 4). Products with the most enquiries were food products, face masks, sanitiser and cigarettes.

Contact Centres – MBIE’s contact centres redeployed people to staff help lines relating to the wellbeing, livelihood and security of New Zealanders e.g. the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade line that assisted those who were stranded overseas, the employment line helping employers and employees understand their rights and the government support they can access, the CERT NZ line for those who were vulnerable to cyber-related crime and the Immigration New Zealand line for those returning home or enquiring about the impact on visas.

MBIE’S ongoing work

MBIE is involved in a number of workstreams focused on the recovery and rebuild phase of the COVID-19 response.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine – On 13 July 2020, MBIE took responsibility for managing isolation and quarantine arrangements for travellers returning to New Zealand. Managed isolation and quarantine is an important way to defend New Zealand against the threat of a re-emergence of the virus.

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Support to business – MBIE is providing support to businesses across New Zealand to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and the lockdown, as well as providing an environment where businesses can bounce back and thrive, in particular:

  • Funding provided for the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan to enable tourism-related businesses to both adapt and survive the impact of the virus.
  • Increasing the scale, intensity and reach of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s (NZTE) support services for exporters.
  • Funding to Crown Research Institutes to cover shortfalls in commercial revenue due to COVID-19 and support the COVID-19 recovery.
  • Business.govt.nz acted as the government’s central resource for small businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. MBIE-developed guidance offered updates and practical tools for New Zealand business owners as they navigated the different Alert Level environments.
  • Cross-agency collaboration with Inland Revenue and the Treasury to develop practical support for businesses affected by COVID-19. This included Wage Subsidy and Leave schemes, Business Finance Guarantee scheme and the Small Business Cashflow Loan scheme.

Support for employment and training – MBIE is supporting initiatives that provide redeployment, retraining and upskilling opportunities. These initiatives include:

  • Three job and skills hubs for key construction and infrastructure projects, managed by the PDU.
  • He Poutama Rangatahi funding to accelerate its establishment in urban areas that have the greatest volumes of young people not in education, employment or training.
  • A worker redeployment package.
  • An end-to-end package of regulatory, policy and operational changes to reduce temporary migrant worker exploitation.

Infrastructure support – Additional support to New Zealand’s infrastructure has been provided through the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group and the PDU. ‘Shovel Ready’ infrastructure projects have been prioritised and the PDU is supporting over 150 projects in provincial New Zealand. MBIE and the PDU are also supporting a number of projects that focus on renewable and sustainable energy. In addition, the PDU has focused on regional investment opportunities in short to medium-term capital projects that support regional economic development and other infrastructure investments as part of the PGF.

Impact on MBIE’s 2019/20 Financial and Performance Results and 2020/21 Financial Forecast

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on MBIE’s 2019/20 financial and non-financial performance results in a number of ways.

MBIE incurred additional costs in 2019/20 responding to the immediate impact of COVID-19. These workstreams required additional staff, IT support and other related costs. These additional costs were funded via reprioritisation of funds and from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF).

The 2019/20 financial results have also been affected by reduced third party income in comparison to 2018/19, especially the impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions on immigration visa income. The impact on the 2019/20 financial results are discussed in further detail in the Financial Commentary.

MBIE annual report 2019/20 - Financial commentary

Additional workstreams detailed above, focusing on the recovery and rebuild phase of the COVID-19 response were funded by the CRRF. As a result, MBIE’s departmental 2020/21 expenses are expected to increase by $89.031 million compared to 2019/20, and non-departmental expenses to increase by $1,493.236 million.

Impacts on non-financial performance results include:

  • Inability to report some performance measures as data was unable to be collected, for example, where we were unable to conduct surveys. Three output performance measures were unable to be reported due to data being unavailable.
  • Out of 35 outcome indicators, COVID-19 had an adverse impact on one.
  • Out of 190 output performance measures, 47 did not reach their target due to, or in part due to the impact of COVID-19.