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Bird Flu Plans Overlook Small Business

Small Business Overlooked in Big Government Bird Flu Plans

Heather Roy Thursday, 17 November 2005 Press Releases - Economy

"Yesterday's announcement by Health Minister Pete Hodgson regarding preparation and planning for bird flu scenarios ignores Labour's stated 'whole-of-government' approach to the pandemic threat," says ACT Health Spokesman Heather Roy.

"Although the medical threats of a bird flu pandemic must take first priority, the flow on effects to New Zealand’s economy at large must not be ignored," Mrs Roy said.

"The government's planning to date has shown scant regard for the 320,279 businesses employing less than 50 people. This group represents over 710,000 hardworking Kiwis.

"Ministers have collectively missed the point that the New Zealand economy would be shattered by the collapse of the small business sector.

"The Ministry of Economic Development has recently published a 74 page business continuity planning document on bird flu. This is unlikely to even be discovered on their website, let alone be helpful to people that are struggling to keep their businesses running every day.

"The Minister for Economic Development, Trevor Mallard, should be embarrassed at the amount of effort his department has invested in a document that is clearly geared toward large Wellington organisations.

"Small Business Minister Lianne Dalziel might like to remove her cloak of invisibility on this matter and start representing those responsible for employing the largest group of New Zealand workers.

"Instead of suggestions like every business appointing an 'Influenza Manager' and reminding employers that they will still have to comply with existing employer-unfriendly legislation, the Government should be taking steps to minimize the negative economic impact of any threat on the engine room of our economy.

"Such steps could include planning for catastrophic events, with tax holidays and temporary respite from legislation that limits businesses ability to reduce staff numbers quickly.

"Simple but practical kitset planning guidelines delivered through trade channels, as well as websites, would be more useful - and would ensure that small business actually received the information necessary to minimize risk," Mrs Roy said.

ENDS

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