It’s been an extraordinary time for New Zealand since March. For some, COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4 have been stressful, scary and confusing. Others have taken a compulsory break from their day-to-day lives and used the time to embark upon new hobbies or exercise regimes. Many have kept working as their roles were deemed essential – those people on the front lines have done an incredible job dealing with difficult situations in hospitals, call centres, supermarkets, rubbish trucks and packhouses, to name just a few.
Others in our community have stepped up on a volunteer basis, helping out with shopping and errands for the elderly and vulnerable people in our society, delivering food and medication to those who can’t leave their homes. I’ve felt great pride knowing that the people of the Bay of Plenty are so caring and supportive of each other under such difficult circumstances.
Our country’s lockdown has left some industries bereft of customers. I fear we will see many small businesses close down unless special aid is targeted towards helping them when our export markets are not buying and overseas visitors are not coming. I’ve received many requests for help from employers having difficulty accessing wage subsidies due to the massive queue of applications the Ministry of Social Development is dealing with. It’s great this support was rolled out so quickly after Level 4 commenced, which allowed employers to keep paying staff salaries despite having to close. Now employers are asking for support to pay other outgoings and I will continue to advocate to the Government for tailored support to help businesses innovate and adapt, to employ new staff and to access local markets.
All of us will find our lives altered by the effects of COVID-19. New Zealand is better positioned than many countries for a swift economic recovery, with our primary industries continuing to be in demand overseas but the reality is that, for the foreseeable future, we might be our own largest market. We must support our own local and domestic producers, service providers and retailers.
Challenging times lie ahead, without a doubt. But I’m confident that, here in the BOP, we are in a great place to support, if not lead, New Zealand’s economic recovery and regeneration. Shop local, save jobs, be positive.