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Labour will extend loan scheme 'lifeline' for small business - PM

Labour has announced its plans to extend the Small Business Loan Cashflow Scheme and spend $162 million on a waterway clean-up package.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's time to step up the pace on conservation efforts. Photo: Supplied

In a first for the party, Labour's annual conference - which started yesterday - has gone mostly virtual.

Labour campaign chair Megan Woods said while Wellington members would be present, many others would be watching a livestream.

But, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is at Te Papa for her leader's speech to the party which began a short time ago.

Much of the speech was a stock take of the government's response to Covid-19 and Labour's plan for economic recovery.

Ardern told the crowd, if the decision is made not to invest now, then the future will be burdened with debt of another kind.

"I am a child of the 80s and 90s, I have seen responses to troubled times that have failed to take this into account, and have left people behind.

"We see the impacts of that still; poverty, inequality, persistent unemployment.

"It does not have to be this way, and under Labour, it won't," she said.

Today she announced that the party plans to create 2000 new jobs through 23 projects as part of a water clean-up package.

In the Budget $1.1 billion was allocated for nature-based jobs.

Ardern said DOC already has a number of conservation projects already under way, such as clearing wilding pine, but now is the time to step up the pace.

"These projects will help restore our wetlands, rivers and streams, regenerate native bush and control pests while creating much needed meaningful work in the regions," she said.

In addition, Labour plans to extend the interest-free Small Business Cashflow Loan scheme until the end of the year.

Applications for the "much needed lifeline" were due to close on 24 July, Ardern said.

So far, more that 90,000 applications have been made, with $1.5 billion paid out in loans.

The average value of each loan has been around $16,700.

"This means those businesses who are doing okay now, but who may experience cashflow difficulties further down the track will still have access to it," she said.

The move to extend the loan scheme has got the tick of approval from Business NZ and Retail NZ, but both have been left wanting more.

Business NZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope says some businesses who need help are missing out.

"The loan scheme only applies to businesses of a certain size, there's a gap for businesses that are in the mid- market area, 50 to 200 employees, and business finance guarantee scheme needs to be amended to provide perhaps some form of lending assistance to those businesses," he said.

Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford says the extension will be cold comfort for businesses not in the position to take on more debt.

"There is a number of businesses out there that really are struggling very substantially still, a couple of months after the lockdown, and really need they need additional government support in terms of further grants or an extension to the wage subsidy," he said.

Ardern finished her address by referencing the "team of five million" and the need to keep up momentum.

"Let's keep rolling out our plan, lets keep rebuilding, let's keep moving," she said.

Ahead of today's speech Ardern said the party would use this weekend to reflect on the global pandemic.

Attention needed to be maintained on keeping the government's current momentum going, Ardern said. Jobs, training and supporting businesses during the recovery would be covered in her speech.

Labour yesterday announced that its slogan for September's election is Let's Keep Moving.

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