Keeping our place safe

Published on 27 August 2020

Ann Court (Deputy Mayor)

As you know, on Monday the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand will remain at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 until 6 September. Auckland will remain at Alert Level 3 until midnight Sunday before it too joins the rest of the nation at Alert Level 2. 

The Council had no idea what Monday’s announcement would hold, but we were fully prepared to move operations to Alert Level 3 if required. We are all relieved that wasn’t necessary. Our libraries, service centres and i-SITES remain at Alert Level 2 with physical distancing protocols in place. While not a requirement, I urge you to also consider wearing a mask when visiting our offices. 

At the time of writing this column, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Northland. That is not a reason for complacency, and I know readers understand the need to remain vigilant and to make simple safety precautions part of their daily routine. That means regularly washing your hands, observing safe physical distancing, using the tracer app to record your movements and wearing a mask in public if you have one. These simple safety measures will become much more important once restrictions on travel between Auckland and Northland are lifted from Monday. 

That change is great news for our business community. Before this latest surge in coronavirus cases and the closure of our border with Auckland, tourism and hospitality businesses were reporting a surge in customers from the nation’s our largest city. Aucklanders and others from around the country keen for a winter break were choosing the Far North as their destination. It makes sense. We are a relatively easy drive from downtown Auckland, and Bay of Islands Airport makes us accessible to the rest of the country.

Of course, our tourism and hospitality sectors were hit hard by the almost overnight disappearance of overseas travellers. But I have been hugely impressed by how our businesses have refused to admit defeat and have quickly pivoted to focus on New Zealand customers. I feel positive that this will again pay off when road blocks between Auckland and Northland open at midnight on Sunday. 

As we have learned from overseas experience and now our own, new clusters of this disease can develop quickly within our communities. Contact tracing is one of the most effective weapons we have to prevent these spreading and I urge you to download the NZ COVID tracer app from the covid19.govt.nz website. This technology will be particularly important when friends and family again visit from other parts of the country.

So far, nearly 2 million New Zealanders have downloaded the app and about one million QR codes are being scanned each day. Our business associations are doing a great job ensuring local businesses are displaying the codes. However, we all have a part to play in keeping Northland free of COVID-19. Wash hands, physically distance, wear a mask and encourage friends and whanau to use the tracer app.