Author: Paul Wilkinson, International Specialist

Is New Zealand moving too slowly in the race to COVID-19 vaccinate? And do we risk becoming the ‘boy in the bubble’ as the rest of the developed world begins to open up?

The global rush towards the finish line for full COVID-19 vaccination can feel a bit like watching a horse race in slow motion, with New Zealand well behind many other developed nations. This has people asking why, as a leading nation in controlling COVID-19, we’re not moving more quickly.

The problem with that analogy is that the finish line isn’t where we thought it was, and, increasingly, it looks as though speed may not be the key to a winning strategy.

Many nations nearing full vaccination are starting to relax COVID-19 restrictions. And, perhaps as a result, infection rates are increasing again. This means long-anticipated freedoms may have to be postponed and, in some cases, restrictions reinstated. This will clearly increase economic uncertainty in those countries and continue to disrupt people’s lives.

New Zealand’s enviable position

Through good management and good luck, New Zealand has managed to keep its economy operating much closer to normal than most countries, and our vaccination rollout is a continuation of a strategy that has made us one of the safest places in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has afforded us a level of business continuity that is the envy of much of the world, largely enabled by an early commitment to an elimination strategy and strong border management. This approach will likely continue throughout our vaccination rollout and beyond, given there will be issues with COVID-19 for some years to come.

New Zealand’s economy has in fact grown during the pandemic. Figures for the March quarter showed GDP grew 1.6 per cent compared to the previous quarter.

A well-planned vaccination programme

New Zealand’s vaccination programme has currently (at 30 June 2021) administered just over 1,000,000 doses, with 382,000 people (7.8 per cent of the population) now fully vaccinated. And it is set to ramp up in July, with the expectation that the population will be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.

Fiona Michel, Director - Sector Engagement, Workforce and Welfare; Covid-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Programme - Ministry of Health New Zealand is directing New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccination and immunisation programme. She pointed out that we are fortunate in not being in an outbreak. "We have the opportunity ... to do things right and make sure it’s a sustainable way forward." She said New Zealand’s vaccination programme will involve hundreds of vaccination sites, with an infrastructure that ensures we do it well.

Safe border openings mean good business

This won’t mean an indiscriminate opening of the border, however, but more likely a staged opening, depending on the risk profile of the geography or category of the traveller. We can already see this approach in the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia and the fact that it is so closely monitored and managed.

The success of New Zealand’s strategy reinforces Auckland’s position as one of the world’s most liveable cities and a strong place for business – not only in terms of opportunity and continuity, but also for well-being and work–life balance.

As US gaming tycoon Gabe Newell said at Auckland’s Future Now 2021 summit, "Covid is not a problem that is going away. And … New Zealand is in the top three places to have part of your labour force."

Auckland has also successfully remained engaged with investors and offshore partners digitally. Visits and due diligence have continued virtually, enabling investment projects to progress. In anticipation of business returning to a semblance of the old normal, there have also been two border exemptions made for investors, with the Innovative Partnerships and Investment Attractions exceptions1.

How fast is fast enough?

Are we opening as fast as we can? No. We’re opening in a manner that seeks to preserve the hard-won freedoms that we have enjoyed throughout much of the pandemic and which have minimised the health risks to our population.

We believe that New Zealand and Auckland will be ready when the rest of the world is truly ready. In the meantime, we encourage you to start your digital engagement and due diligence now, so you can hit the ground running when we’re able to welcome you back in person.

Find out more

Contact International Specialist Paul Wilkinson to learn more about investing in Auckland, New Zealand.

This article provides general information on potential investment opportunities in Auckland and is not intended to be used as a substitute for financial advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the relevant author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Auckland Unlimited. Auckland Unlimited disclaims all liability in connection with any action that may be taken in reliance on this article, and for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it.