Facing our fears, working together

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Alex and I popped down to The Business Hive this week, masked and dangerous, armed with the now familiar Covid-yellow insulation tape and (coincidentally) Covid-yellow tape measure (1m rule).

This time feels same but different.

Cleaning, yep. Measuring, yep. Rearranging furniture, yep.

Wondering if we’re doing it right? This time, not so much.

Worried about contagion in our building? This time, not at all.

No business owner wants to get Covid or worse, be responsible for its spread.

We all know that testing, wastewater testing and contact tracing is key.

We’ve learned how transmission can happen and how best to prevent it.

We know we don’t have Covid in the South Island right now. That doesn’t mean we should flout the rules, but we can let go of some of those last-time-we-got-the-tape-out fears.

The fears that we can’t so easily bypass are equally familiar.

Fears about how to meet 100% of outgoings with a fraction of earnings, fears about the mounting costs of compliance, and the biggest fear of all – what if an employer can’t look after their staff?

Every employer I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks has been focused on their team.

Some are doing OK, but others are choosing to put wages ahead of bills, hoping the proverbial tape holds over these (hopefully) short-term financial cracks.

Business owners know their people, they know those families, responsibilities and lives. They share in their teams’ joys and care about their disappointments.

The mere thought of letting down any of their people – it’s what makes for sleepless nights.

That’s why we must support local businesses – they are the bedrock of our community.

It’s why everyone (council, commercial and community) must work together so no families fall through that Covid-shaped hole.

I’m pleased to say collaboration is exactly what I am seeing.

Diverse groups are sharing information and working hard to help.

From penguin posters of solidarity (thanks to local graphic artist Scott Wilson) to multi-agency discussions, problems are being considered and solutions tested.

This place has rich history of great ideas, mobilising voices and putting in the hard work. We can live up to that legacy with open minds and listening ears.

If you need help, ask. If you can help, do. Bring your ideas to the table, get involved and let’s all do our part in what we know needs to be done.

Cara Tipping Smith is a director of The Business Hive and the chairwoman of the Oamaru Business Collective.