We all have a role to play in rebuilding our ‘new’ NZ

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As I sat writing my speech ahead of Anzac Day, it brought home to me just how unreal these times upon us are.

Instead of speaking at the Papakaio Cenotaph at dawn or in Oamaru or Kurow like I have been honoured to do over the years, I will be sitting reflecting at home, while my pre-recorded speech is played in a virtual service.

It struck me then just how quickly we have acclimatised ourselves with this “new” normal. To continue to embrace and acknowledge our past, albeit in new ways, while being part of another truly extraordinary chapter in history.

Throughout these weeks in Level 4 lockdown, like so many others, I have tried to find time to embrace this strange, unfamiliar feeling of staying home. I have worked as a member of Parliament for 15 years, I live in Oamaru and travel to Wellington each week for work, and when I’m not there I am driving across the Waitaki meeting with constituents – so, as you can imagine, spending lengthy time at home has been a bit of a novelty.

But it’s been far from a holiday.

This is not to say I haven’t enjoyed the hubby’s home-cooked dinners and spending quality time FaceTiming and Zooming my children and grandies, who I miss immensely.

I am only too aware of the struggles people are facing in the fallout of Covid-19. My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones, or to those who are still suffering the effects of this dreaded disease.

Over the past weeks I have taken the opportunity of lockdown to talk with churches and volunteer groups. I am in awe of the work they are doing to support the more vulnerable in our community, selflessly putting others first while gathering together and delivering food, warm bedding and clothing. They – along with the health workers, supermarket staff, orderlies and carers – are the true heroes of this pandemic.

I have also been ringing around local businesses, chambers of commerce and industry bodies to see how they’re coping and what support they need. I’ve had daily conversations with our small and not-so-small-business owners throughout this district who are now facing an uncertain future.

Like many others, they have been through the wringer as they’ve battened down the hatches to weather the Covid-19 storm. While restrictions are set to ease slightly next week, significant challenges lie ahead as they grapple with the implications of Level 3 and figure out how to remain viable through this period and into the future.

What is clear is that local businesses that have managed to wait out the lockdown period so far are looking at a very different operating environment when they return from what they are used to, and will have to market themselves in new ways to bring in revenue.

They desperately need to see medium to long-term measures from the Government to give them some sense of certainty in order to keep trading.

At the end of the day, we all have a role to play in rebuilding our “new” New Zealand.

Shop locally, show these businesses the same support they have shown so many of our Oamaru clubs, schools and fundraisers over the years. And yes, when the time comes, if you’re in the position to do so, plan that domestic trip – let’s enjoy what the rest of the world has been coming so far to see.

  • ¬†Jacqui Dean is the Member of Parliament for Waitaki.