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We await the Government’s direction on how we will eventually come out of the COVID-19 lockdown, or what signals and evidence it will rely on to make its decision. What are those milestones we need to reach in order to ratchet back the lockdown? In the meantime the public’s support for eliminating the virus is still strong, and now that our international borders are more strictly protected, with quarantine now mandatory, it appears we are on the way to beating the spread of the virus and our attention starts to move towards the future.

The lockdown has come at huge economic cost to our country and like many of my colleagues I have been fielding a large number of enquiries from individuals and businesses about how they can stay viable now and into the future. The decisions some local businesses have had to make about making staff redundant have been heart-wrenching, and the impacts across the country of the big chain corporates and their decisions to lay off staff has left many families in limbo and with genuine concern for their futures.

So what could life look like for us on the West Coast? We are geographically secure thanks to the mountain passes so an option is to allow a gradual regional adjustment back to life as we once knew it. With only three points of road access into the Coast we would be perfectly suited to becoming our own “micro bubble”. With tight monitoring of the road access points we could resume a form of normality that would allow people to get back into production, our kids back into school, retail back in business, and service industries once again out in force. It’s an opportunity to forge ahead with projects, buy local and pay promptly. This would of course be conditional on being COVID-free for at least 14 days. And this is why the restrictions on staying at home now are so important. We don’t want any new cases here!

Our mining sector is a good example of an industry that can be undertaken in relative isolation and one that provides good returns to the local economy. There are safe ways to gradually resume many activities with virtually no risk of spreading the virus, and that needs to be at the forefront of our thinking.

Other areas like Golden Bay, Waiheke Island, Chatham Islands and Stewart Island would also be well suited to a careful easing of the lockdown because their borders could be easily monitored too.

In my view, rural areas are best suited to leading the way back.

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