Auckland lockdown pain must end

People who have thrown money, time and passion into building their businesses over decades – over generations, in the case of some family-run firms – are now on the brink says Christopher Luxon. Times photo Wayne Martin
  • By Christopher Luxon, MP for Botany

Earlier this month, I joined Judith Collins and my National Party colleagues Simeon Brown and Melissa Lee for visits to local east Auckland businesses that are still doing it incredibly tough under Auckland’s restrictions.

The feeling from business owners was unmistakeable: despair.

That day, and in the many conversations I’ve shared with businesses since, I’ve heard countless devastating stories of people with no hope and no confidence in their future.

Businesses aren’t some esoteric concept. They are cornerstones of our communities. They are real people and real lives.

People who have thrown money, time and passion into building their businesses over decades – over generations, in the case of some family-run firms – are now on the brink. Riddled with debt, these business owners are turning to mortgaging their own homes, selling their cars and racking up their credit cards just so they can pay their invoices and keep their staff on.

How they get through the week ahead is the question – let alone what the coming months might bring.

Aucklanders have “podium fatigue”. We’re fed up with the endless confusing messages and periodic announcements of future announcements that ultimately just lead to the goalposts shifting. We’ve had four plans in two months. We’ve had a 90 per cent vaccination target introduced and then quietly abandoned. Next Monday we’ve been promised another announcement of a “clear path” that’s sure to be anything but.

The fact people can now go shopping is cold comfort. People are tired of navigating nonsensical and counter-intuitive rules. Aucklanders can go to the dentist yet can’t get a haircut. They can shop at Sylvia Park – only the country’s largest shopping mall – but restaurants can’t serve customers in outdoor dining areas.

And then there’s the continuing farce of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ). A million Kiwis are stuck offshore, including many in emergency situations whose visas have expired and their only chance of returning home is by winning the MIQ lottery and miraculously securing a space. People with desperate health problems or terminally-ill relatives are still left playing the roulette wheel that is the compassionate exemption process.

We need to allow fully-vaccinated travellers who return negative pre-departure tests to enter New Zealand without spending time in MIQ hotels. Almost 100,000 people have now signed National’s petition calling for MIQ to end.

The Government have complacently rested on their initial success curbing Covid-19 last year and proved time and time again that they didn’t do the ground work when given the opportunity.

New Zealand had the world’s slowest vaccination rollout for most of the year. We were slow to work on vaccine certificates and slow to order boosters. Eighteen months down the track, we somehow have fewer intensive care beds now than we did at the start of the pandemic.

Our Delta response has been made up on the fly. The Government can’t be immune from criticism for their total incompetence managing the current outbreak. It’s not about National being oppositional without offering answers.

In fact, we’ve released the third in a series of detailed plans covering education and schools, businesses and the economy and ending lockdowns and re-opening to the world – that hand policy solutions to the Government that could be implemented overnight.

Enough is enough. Aucklanders desperately need confidence, certainty and hope.