It’s been a time of great uncertainty and unprecedented action. There have been challenges thrown at us from all directions.
You wouldn’t ever choose to go through a time like we’ve just had, but we all just did. Our bubble of 5 million.
We still aren’t out of the mess. In fact, we are still trying to understand what the fallout from this is going to be. Unemployment will be high. Whole sectors of the population will have to retrain and be redeployed.
But if hunkering down to stop the spread is something we have had to do to keep our people safe, then I played my part. And there were some surprise lessons along the way - as an MP, as a small business owner, as a dad.
As an MP, my team and I have made calls to over 2500 people, calling out, offering support and connecting those who needed it, in the right direction.
My 0800 TAMATI number has been ringing off the hook and it hasn’t been the usual enquiries either. There have been messages from iwi organisations and funeral directors concerned about not getting PPE gear - so we're connecting them with the DHBs and making sure the supplies coming through have been a priority.
I’ve fielded calls from remote Maori communities, genuinely worried about the spread of Covid-19 into their rohe and resorting to boundary enforcement with the NZ Police onside.
I’ve heard from workers not getting their wage subsidy from their employers and going for weeks without pay, hearing their frustrations and trying to get some money for them.
I’ve been asked by organisations that have food, to connect with whanau that need food. Principals have contacted me to ask about laptops for their students, while anxious parents have tried to get me to help get their loved ones home from overseas – which happened, by the way.
Workplaces have been in touch, asking for workers, and workers have been in touch asking for work. People have reported their neighbours to me for breaches of the rules and I’ve been tagged into countless Facebook posts about 5G being responsible for the spread of Covid-19, which by the way, isn’t true, not at all. But I get it. It’s been a traumatic time for everyone's "business as usual".
As a small business owner, it’s been equally as tough. Having to close our restaurant and bar in the hub of NZ’s tourism hotspot, Rotorua. As a region, we have felt the impact hard. Tourism. Forestry. Manufacturing. All employers and heavy employers of Maori.
Thankfully the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson brought us the Wage Subsidy Scheme to support workers, and as every other business did, we’ve been able to keep our staff in a holding pattern, for the time being.
Trying to strategically plan for the future is hard. It fills me with anxiety when I watch the news and see big businesses like Te Puia, Air NZ and Ngai Tahu Tourism making bold decisions about their future.
At a local level, our tourism and hospitality industries are in crisis, but there is talk about the future taking place and some of the talk is inspiring. Making sure that as we move forward, we take the opportunity to forecast a brighter future in line with our values. Sustainability. Food sovereignty. Fair pay for workers. An environmentally friendly future. Rangatiratanga for hapū and iwi. That’ll be the economic reboot that New Zealand will need. And just because I can say it, I will – many Māori organisations are wanting to partner with Government and to that, I say tautoko marika!
But here’s the rub. As a new dad to a 9-month-old, I’ve found my silver lining to this cloud. Te kūkū o taku manawa. I can say with my hand on my heart that in this last month in lockdown within my bubble – my partner Tim and our son, well, I’ve loved every single baby crying, baby laughing moment.
We’ve built forts together with blankets and outdoor furniture cushions. I’ve been home to bath him each day and we’ve had quality time, singing along to ‘Songs for Bubba’s’ by Anika Moa. I’ve consoled him after he’s taken a tumble and I’ve comforted him in the middle of the night when he has woken up crying.
As I write, he is letting me know in his new whiney voice that it’s "time to go to bed, dad". Point is, I’ve seen him and heard him and got to hang out with him for the last five weeks and I’ve found the balance that I’ve been looking for in these crazy times.
If I’ve had this kind of experience, I hope many whanau will have had a similar experience with their loved ones because, let’s face it, we are never going to get those five weeks back.
To all those who have stayed home and stuck to the rules, thank you. It’s only because of you that we are in the enviable health position we are in right now.
During Alert Level 3 continue to stay home and save lives to break the chain of transmission.
Kia kaha to us. All of us.