Farmer, community advocate, critical thinker
Northland is home. As a former police officer, detective and small business owner, I understand the local issues. I had the privilege of serving as the MP for Northland from 2017-20, which allowed me to connect with people from all walks of life across the length and breadth of the electorate. While I am not a sitting MP this term, I am still deeply committed to our region and our people. In addition to the various roles I have held, I have been a farmer for more than three decades. I am an independent thinker, and I believe in having a strong voice to advocate for the issues that matter.
In just a few days, our commercial capital – Auckland – will finally reopen. We will be able to reconnect with friends and family around the country after four long months of Auckland being cut off from the rest of New Zealand. Given our geographic location and connectivity options, many in Northland have been cut off from the rest of New Zealand for as long as Auckland has.
At a time when our international borders are still shut and one million Kiwis will not be able to come home to their loved ones in New Zealand for the second Christmas in a row, it is even more important that the domestic border is open. The economic and psychological toll on our people has been significant.
When Auckland is cut off, the rest of New Zealand feels the impact. Early in the pandemic, there were many unknowns – but the time has now come to transition from crisis to recovery. We cannot continue to have people cut off from each other in the way we have seen: lives and livelihoods have been seriously impacted. This Christmas is going to be quite different for many households, whether because of vaccination status causing division, or financial constraints caused by prolonged lockdowns and the impact they have had on local businesses.
Local businesses are the nucleus of our community – they bring people together. Northland businesses rely on visitation to stay in business. Illegal roadblocks and shutting the door on visitors to Northland is not what our community needs to rebuild after a very tough 20 months.
During the first lockdown in 2020, I spoke out against the illegal roadblocks, and was the subject of abuse and even physical threats from a vocal minority. Access and inclusion are the very foundation of a thriving society, and at a time when we need to connect and support each other to rebuild, we do not need anything that divides people.
Tourism and hospitality businesses are seeing nearly 90% less income this year compared to pre-COVID days. Being able to pay mortgages and putting food on the table is now what it really comes down to for these businesses. A business can absorb a downturn in revenue for a limited period, particularly when expenses have not stopped, but this has gone on for nearly two years now and there has been a complete lack of clarity or roadmap to recovery. We need to reconnect with Auckland and the rest of the country, because our businesses – our people who depend on these businesses for their families – need us to reconnect.
For people who are concerned about the spread of COVID due to low vaccination rates, let’s look at it this way. More than 90% of Auckland has been vaccinated. The majority of our country’s population lives in Auckland, so when the Auckland border drops on 15 December, there is no reason to have roadblocks in Northland to stop our visitors from entering.
For those who rely on the science, warm weather and good ventilation (like being outdoors in the sun at a beach) carries almost a zero per cent chance of catching COVID. And for those who believe in community spirit and bringing people together, now is our chance to do that.
Reopening and reconnecting, brings opportunity – an opportunity for our people, and for our region. Let’s get on with rebuilding our disconnected communities and broken economy.