Job not over for reunited district

Published on 11 November 2021


Tonight, the border that has bisected our district for over a week will be lifted. The alert level border that stretched from the Hokianga Harbour in the west to Kāeo Bridge and Whangaroa in the east was created after two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in our district. These were not the first confirmed cases of the Delta variant that we had seen, but these could not be linked to other active cases in Northland. There were very real concerns that undetected community transmission of the virus was occurring within our communities.

Overnight, our district was divided into two with everywhere north of the line at Alert Level 3, while those to the south remaining at level 2. This was a huge challenge for residents, our business community, the Council and other agencies. In the west, the hospital at Rāwene was in level 2, while many of its staff living on the other of the harbour were in level 3. Scenarios like this were repeated all along the alert level divide, with people cut off from schools, shops and jobs.

This has compounded the hardship and anxiety being felt by many, especially our business owners. I am in regular contact with business associations across our district, with representatives of our hospitality and tourism sectors, event promoters, community groups, iwi leaders, and regional organisations. All of them tell me the same thing. People everywhere are fatigued by COVID-19. They want to see their loved ones and whānau, both here in New Zealand and overseas. But it is the tourism and hospitality sectors that are being hit the hardest. Some have already closed their doors and many others are wondering how much longer they can hold on. These are mostly small businesses owned by people you know. They are your next-door neighbours, family members, friends. These people have worked hard to build what they have and to provide the services that help make this district unique. While I do hear some grumble about a lack of information from Government, about complex and sometimes contradictory rules, they do not question the need to protect our loved ones or our communities from COVID-19. They understand the need to stop this disease from spreading and the need to get 90% of the nation fully immunised. If we want to save these small businesses and if we want to see friends and whānau in Auckland this Christmas, we need to make sure all those who can get vaccinated do so as soon as possible.

I could almost hear the collective sigh of relief on Monday when we all learned that the Far North would be reunited again from tonight. Imagine how we will feel when we can reunite with Auckland and again travel freely across the country. The latest predictions are that Auckland will achieve its 90% vaccination rate by the end of this month. Let’s make sure we join them. Please get fully vaccinated. Protect our communities and help save our businesses. Make Christmas unstoppable.