In politics, things turn on a heartbeat. I have friends who adore Jacinda but are sick up to the back teeth of being locked down, because they can’t visit family overseas, can’t hold funerals for their loved ones, have to queue to get into a supermarket and can’t even go out without a mask. Jacinda has used her strong approach to COVID as a way to shore up support but, as so often happens, the public will only take so much of a one-eyed approach. She thought she could continue to lock the country down forever, and that her polling would skyrocket in return.

She was wrong.

The sixth lockdown has been one lockdown too many, particularly as that lockdown has been longer and harsher than any of the others, including the very first one. As we watch the rest of the world open up, while we are still regaled with absurd figures about the possible number of deaths if we do not all comply, the country has had enough. Ardern has misread the mood of the people badly this time.

Only handfuls of generations ago, pioneers, adventurers and dreamers came to New Zealand’s shores in search of a better life, most of them hopeful that we would thrive and continue their legacy.

They weren’t looking for a handout or, in most cases for that matter, a hand up. They just wanted to be left alone to support themselves and be allowed to profit from their endeavour.

Ernest Rutherford, from Brightwater, Edmund Hillary, from Tuakau, Alan MacDiarmid, from Masterton, Peter Jackson, from Pukerua Bay, and Peter Beck, from Invercargill, are part of our list of champions.

So how is it we have become willing lap dogs, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Hovering around daily briefings in the hope our captors will throw us a bone?

Regardless of whether the news is good or bad, we feel comforted that those who know what’s best for us keep us from harm’s way. Protecting us from the violation that freedom would otherwise bring. 

In short, we have for the most part surrendered our lives through fear. We accept that our own citizens should be forced into lotteries in order to come home from their adventures and that we may well be refused a seat next to a dying parent.

With a spirit reminiscent of our plucky past, our Government went “hard and fast” in the face of the Covid threat and created a window of opportunity, the envy of most of the rest of the world. Once created, the opportunity was used to gloat.

Global Covid gloating became a New Zealand sport. We were world champions. Even I, on my first Covid trip home to Palm Springs last year, found myself basking in reflected glory.

My neighbours all wished they could visit.

But, of course, they could not.

What the world did not know then – but has since found out – is New Zealand had moved into phase two of its unofficial Covid strategy, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

We went hard and fast on borrowing. And borrowing is fine as long as you borrow to invest. But not us.

Did we use our hard-won, Covid-free months – almost a year – to invest in health infrastructure, both hardware and staffing?

No.

Did we vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate?

No.

Did we invest in money-making initiatives that exploited our Covid-free status?

No.

Our economic policy is akin to a reverse mortgage, as we live quite well whilst building debt. Unfortunately, in order to be sound, reverse mortgages require that you die quite soon.

NZ Herald

I was a bit surprised that this article, written by Paul Henry, was published at all by Big Media, the team of $55 million, but it is possible that, while they do the bidding of their masters, they are not always comfortable with it. After all, the weekend news media was covered wall-to-wall with John Key, who demonstrated that, were he still prime minister, we would be doing a lot better than we are at present, as he has a plan to get us out of our ‘smug hermit kingdom’.

What a kick in the teeth that must have been for Jacinda Ardern and her ‘team of 5 million’.

Then there was this article written by Ross Stitt, a journalist based in Sydney.

There’s no social distancing in the MIQ virtual lobby. When it opened last week, 3000 spaces across September, October, November, and December were released. Within an hour 25,000 people were in the “lobby”.

The hopes of thousands of Kiwis abroad were killed in the rush. So too the hopes of thousands of Kiwis at home wanting to visit family and friends overseas.

The lesson is obvious. The MIQ system cannot begin to cope with the demand, and need, for cross-border travel.

On top of that, there are many people for whom MIQ is not a viable option because they can’t afford either the time or the cost.

In August, the Ardern Government released its plan to reopen New Zealand. It was a cautious but reasonable plan “to safely reconnect New Zealanders and business with the world and seize the opportunities created by our Covid success”. To allow fully vaccinated people to cross the border with appropriate testing and self-isolation. A message of hope for a country cut off for so long from the rest of the world.

Six weeks on, there has been no guidance on when the reopening might commence. The Minister for Covid-19 Response, Chris Hipkins, even suggested that the Government might be rethinking the reopening after New Zealand’s Delta outbreak.

This is not the time for the Government to lose its nerve. Or change its timetable. Reopening New Zealand’s international border is a matter of urgency.

Stuff.

This week, both National and ACT have come out with plans to reopen the borders get us out of lockdowns and allow people to return home, as is their right.

The Grown-ups have arrived. Image credit The BFD.

How has the government reacted to these well-intentioned and well-designed plans to get the country out of the hole it is in?

Like petulant children.

Chris Hipkins described John Key’s well thought out plan as ‘an insult to New Zealanders’. Grant Robertson, commenting on National’s plan to get things moving in MIQ and bring New Zealanders home, described it as “giving New Zealanders COVID for Christmas”. Jacinda just fluffed and waffled, as she normally does.

The government’s puerile reaction to excellent suggestions towards moving the country out of lockdowns tells me two things.

First, they think they know better than anyone else, even if – clearly – they do not.

Secondly, they haven’t moved an inch from their strategy of locking us all up indefinitely to keep us all safe. If Grant Robertson thinks extending the MIQ facilities will result in ‘COVID for Christmas’, his thinking has not moved on since March 2020.

The Labour Government’s reaction shows that they have not read the room properly. People want to open up, to be able to return home, or be able to travel to visit family, even if there are risks involved. The rest of the world is managing it, so why can’t we?

There is a third thing the government’s reaction brings to mind. We are being governed by a bunch of petulant teenagers. I think we already knew that. After all, not one of them has spent 5 minutes working in the real world. But the kids need to look out. It seems that the adults have finally arrived.

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The Grown-Ups Have Arrived
Christie

Christie

Ex-pat from the north of England, living in NZ since the 1980s, I consider myself a Kiwi through and through, but sometimes, particularly at the moment with Brexit, I hear the call from home. I believe...