- By Christopher Luxon, MP for Botany
After weeks of huge sacrifice, it will be a welcome relief for our community that Auckland is now at Alert Level 3.
For many of us, this will mean finally dusting off the takeaway brochures with glee while for others, it will be the special and significant ability to expand our bubbles ever so slightly to include a friend or loved one. For 300,000 Aucklanders, it will mean the much-awaited return to work.
But we should be under no illusion that it’s been easy. Our community has paid a heavy price for the Government’s inability to get its plans and actions in motion.
This was a point that seemed to escape the recent column by my parliamentary colleague, Labour MP Naisi Chen, published here on September 7 – a column that was a pleasant regurgitation of Government talking points, but disappointingly light on real reflection or insight.
As Naisi notes, life at Alert Level 4 is indeed tough and it has required big sacrifices by all of us. But those platitudes are sure to rankle with the many business owners whose livelihoods have been all but destroyed by the Government’s abject failure to plan and prepare.
The Government has had the better part of a year to future-proof Auckland from the debacle we’ve found ourselves in.
Yet what we’ve seen has largely been a wheeling-out of the ad hoc response that served us well a year ago, when we were flying blind in a storm and mistakes were slightly more forgivable.
Now, there’s no excuse for the Government not to have innovated, heeded expert advice and adopted a more agile and nimble approach. Why is it still the case that butchers and greengrocers are mind-bogglingly forbidden from operating at Level 4?
Why has our vaccine rollout been glacially slow? Why have we been just as slow to order booster shots? Why hasn’t the Government progressed purpose-built MIQ facilities?
National is about constructive opposition, not unhelpful carping from the sidelines, but the numerous plans and proposals we have put forward – around MIQ, supercharging our vaccine rollout and providing rental support to firms – seem to have fallen on deaf ears in the Beehive.
The consequences are far greater than column inches; they have a real impact on our community. We must remember that behind every local business is a local family. With their cash reserves already low, many of our businesses were only just getting back on their feet after the last lockdown.
Some have had to sell assets just to stay afloat. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to the Labour Government that every business is essential to the employers and employees whose livelihoods are on the line. Wage subsidies and resurgence payments are good bandages that staunch the bleeding, but they just can’t be cast as cure-alls.
They only go so far to cover overheads which don’t just vanish overnight. Wages and rent still need to be paid and that’s tough to say the least when lockdown prevents the turnover most businesses need to keep going.
It’s all very well to applaud the community for doing our bit to arrest this Delta outbreak – but at what cost? More importantly: what is the Government’s plan to get us moving forward?
So far, that part seems to be missing in action.