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What does new leadership mean for Kiwi SMEs?

Published February 3, 2023 (last updated on June 11, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator


Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation on 19 January, stepping down after two terms as Prime Minister of New Zealand. Chris Hipkins replaces her and becomes the 41st Prime Minister of New Zealand. Citing burnout as a reason for her sudden departure, Ardern made a move previously unheard of in leadership and opened the road for conversations around burnout and mental health. Chris Hipkins takes on a daunting task by diving headfirst into a role that comes at a time of economic uncertainty and a long lockdown. What does this change in leadership mean for SMEs?

What does the new leadership mean for SMEs in New Zealand?

With the cost-of-living crisis worsening daily and business confidence hitting its lowest level since the 1970s, business owners across New Zealand are hoping Hipkins puts the economy at the forefront. Employers and business leaders are suggesting the government should give up on dynamic policies and just focus on the basics.

Hipkins has assured that he will focus on tackling the cost-of-living crisis by reining in non-essential projects. However, many doubt he can pull it off. According to an Auckland Business Chamber Survey, 36% of respondents feel the Government can’t pursue an economic business-focused agenda. A whopping 75.51% of people surveyed said they expect New Zealand to enter a recession in 2023.

Employers also want urgent answers to the growing labour and staffing shortages across the country. Restrictive immigration settings mean business owners are having a tough time finding skilled labour. This added a strain on the existing staff who are feeling burnt out and stressed.

A statement released by the Auckland Business Chamber has echoed business owner sentiments across the country and said the message for the Government is clear to focus on basic and restore business confidence. This means going back to:

  • Reducing the cost of living

  • Curbing inflation

  • Relaxing immigration settings

  • Tackling crime

Businesses are also urging the government to abandon the newly implemented Fair Pay Agreement (FPA) system. 64.64% of respondents wanted the highly controversial FPA to be abandoned. Business groups have called the FPA system unlawful under current and domestic international laws. Business leaders said the government should abandon the Auckland Light Rail, the TVNZ-RNZ merger as well as the Three Waters.

What can business owners learn from Hipkins and Ardern?

Ardern has been lauded across the world for her honest and real speech about burnout and the impact it has had on her life. There has long been a stigma associated with mental health in leadership roles but knowing your limitations and weaknesses is also one of the traits associated with great leadership. Ardern’s vulnerable admission that she doesn’t have it in her makes for a refreshing change.

While Hipkins has seamlessly moved into the leadership role, he inherits a challenge and complex issues that demand his immediate attention. A swift leadership change is always seen with wariness and concern by people, but it can be a good thing at times. Hipkins has solid experience behind him, and he has worked alongside Ardern to keep the country running during a pandemic. He was Ardern’s Health Minister and then the COVID-19 response minister, adopting a strict zero-COVID-19 approach that kept the country’s total death toll at 2,437, extremely low by global standards.

Hipkins has decided on a leadership style that is opposite to Ardern. His focus, according to his speeches, remains the basics and bread and butter issues rather than flashy or transformational issues. Any business owner or employer inheriting a new company can take notes and learn to avoid making the same mistakes their predecessor did.

Grow with Peninsula

Peninsula has worked with 30,000 business owners across Australia and New Zealand supporting them in employment relations and workplace health and safety. We understand the challenges business owners and employers face regularly. Call our 24/7 Advice Line to get all your questions answered.

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