Alert Level 2 means we can resume many of our favourite pastimes and see our friends again – but life as we know it will take on a new normal. Oamaru Mail reporters Sally Brooker and Daniel Birchfield speak to local industry leaders about what Level 2 means for them, and how their sectors have fared during lockdown.
New Zealand has fought off the virus that was infecting people, now it needs to fight the virus infecting businesses, Margaret Munro says.
The Tourism Waitaki general manager said some tourism businesses would “fail and die”, others would be “injured badly”, and some would show few effects.
As the nation headed into Covid-19 Level 2, Mrs Munro told the Oamaru Mail the economic recovery was a matter of taking things gently and slowly.
“We can’t rush or force it.”
Most of the tourism industry was a work in progress, and Tourism New Zealand had stepped in to ensure a countrywide perspective.
Waitaki needed to continue focusing on what made it special to attract domestic visitors, she said.
It has already launched its “We Are Missing You” digital-based campaign that encouraged local people to share favourite images with family, friends, and customers elsewhere.
Having State Highways 1 and 8 was a big advantage for Waitaki, Mrs Munro said. Travellers choosing either the coastal or inland route would stop and spend money in the district.
“It’s about keeping that profile up there.”
However, it would be a long time before visitor numbers returned to pre-Covid-19 numbers, she said.
“The indication from the industry is whatever your domestic market was, halve it.
“It’s going to be a tough time.”
She had not heard of any commercial-scale accommodation providers likely to have to close.
“It’s up to each individual operator what their occupancy rates and overheads are.”
How well they had survived would become clearer when it was time to scale back up again before next summer, she said.
The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, run by Tourism Waitaki, would reopen for evening viewings tonight.
The initiative to have Waitaki recognised as a Unesco Global Geopark would continue, she said.
“The region is still a geopark; that doesn’t change.”
The campaign would be rekindled when prospective visitor numbers warranted it.
Rural North Otago has fared better than a lot of places under lockdown, Federated Farmers president Simon Williamson says.
“We’ve been pretty lucky we’ve had such a good autumn,” Mr Williamson said.
The feed shortages and droughts affecting some parts of the country were not really being felt here, Mr Williamson said.
Although there had been “a couple of dots” of snow at his Glenbrook Station, between Omarama and Twizel, temperatures had risen again in the last 10 days.
“It’s surprisingly mild. We’ve had no frosts.”
Any surplus feed available in North Otago would be sent by Federated Farmers to Southlanders needing a top-up, he said.
However, whether there would be enough to get the whole country through to spring depended on how bad winter was.
Morale during the Covid-19 lockdown seemed to be all right, he said. Farmers mostly lived and worked in relative isolation anyway and were keeping in touch with others through the likes of Skype.
Concerns about meat processors being able to slaughter livestock had mainly been overcome now, Mr Williamson said.
Life for pupils and staff at primary schools in North Otago will be different from next week, when most will return to the classroom.
North Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Kate Mansfield, who is also principal at Glenavy School, said most people had coped well with distance learning during Alert Level 3 and Level 4.
“A couple of weeks ago I sent out a survey to all of our principals to see how they were coping and what percentage of children they were having back and things like that,” Mrs Mansfield said.
“The whole general attitude around the lockdown and teaching at home was that everyone was looking after the children’s well-being, and was pleased with what was happening and there was some good work being done.”
Mrs Mansfield said children should return to school in Level 2, but if they were unable to attend, parents should discuss any issues with principals.
“School is now the best place for your children to be. I am not aware of any parents who are not sending their children back, but what I would say to parents out there in that position is to ring the principal at the school and have a discussion about it and try and make some sort of a plan so we can support the transition back in to school.”
She said schools would look “very similar to normal school” from the outside, but with more strict Ministry of Health guidelines specifically designed for schools.
That meant pupils had to wash and sanitise their hands regularly, clean benches, desks and door handles frequently and make sure they followed hygiene protocols before and after using playground and sporting equipment.
Parents are not allowed on school grounds and are only permitted to pick children up from outside the school gates.
Oamaru residents have in general abided by Covid-19 Level 3 alert restrictions, with the exception of those prepared to “push things”, police say.
Senior Sergeant Jason McCoy, of Oamaru, said a change in alert level yesterday did not mean people should change their behaviour.
He expected police to be busier in the coming weeks.
“I think in general people have been pretty good with Level 3, but there is that 10% or 15% of people that want to push things, as they do anywhere. But, we still have that percentage that thinks it doesn’t apply to them.
“Obviously we are expecting we will be dealing with a bit more stuff as we will be dealing with more people. But, Covid is still out there and people need to be kind to each other . . . we don’t want some of the issues we have had continuing.”
Those included family harm incidents, burglaries and police pursuits, of which there have been several since alert Level 4 came into effect.
Most recently, an assortment of camping gear was stolen from a shed at a Virgil St property and in Weston, a vehicle parked at a Main St address had been broken into over the past fortnight and a stereo taken.
Two people were also processed for driving offences over the weekend. Both are scheduled to appear in the Oamaru District Court on June 10.
Snr Sgt McCoy reminded residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to police.