Protecting both lives and livelihoods

Published on 25 November 2021

Ann Court (Deputy Mayor)

By Deputy Mayor Ann Court.

From Wednesday 15 December, travel to and from Auckland and, by extension, the rest of the country will reopen for Northlanders. Before our border with Auckland opens, all of New Zealand will move to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework or ‘traffic light’ system at midnight 2 December. While some restrictions will remain in place, our tourism, hospitality, and retail businesses will be hugely relieved that we can again enjoy increased freedoms and travel opportunities. These businesses normally rely on a summer influx of visitors to get them through the lean months of winter. This summer will be even more crucial for operators who have struggled to stay open during months of uncertainty and lockdowns. Many are saying that without visitors this summer, they will go under. 

The Government says the new traffic light system will reduce the likelihood of vaccinated and unvaccinated people coming into contact with one another because only those who are fully vaccinated or who have had a negative COVID test within 72 hours will be allowed to travel. The decision to open our border with Auckland has not been welcomed by everyone. Iwi leaders have expressed understandable fears that lifting travel restrictions before Māori communities have reached 90% vaccination rates will see infections spiral out of control, overwhelming health services. Te Kahu o Taonui, which represents Taitokerau iwi chairs, has called for the boundary with Auckland to remain in place until all Northland communities achieve the 90% vaccination target.

I don’t believe the needs of Māori or our business community are necessarily opposed. I think Te Kahu o Taonui and local businesses have similar aims: for life to return to normal (or as close to normal as it will ever be in our COVID world); to be able to travel freely so we can visit friends and whānau; and to have greater certainty about our collective future. From 3 December, Northland will almost certainly operate under the red traffic light setting because of our low vaccination rates. Contact tracing, face coverings and limits on the number of people at events will be required. If we adhere to these rules, while also working to increase our vaccination rates, we can minimise the spread of the virus and enjoy a great summer. We can protect both lives and livelihoods by continuing to observe rules we already know so well and by using new tools like vaccination certificates.

Today is White Ribbon Day. It is the day when people around the world wear a white ribbon and join in activities to show they do not condone violence towards women. Research by University of Otago shows that violence escalates and intensifies during natural disasters and emergencies like a pandemic, which makes 25 November even more important this year.

White Ribbon Day is a great example of what we can achieve by working together. That’s also how we will defeat this pandemic. We can protect lives and livelihoods by ensuring everyone who can get vaccinated does so, by acknowledging that some challenges require a collective response and by treating each other with respect.