Our country is protecting itself from one of the greatest threats in living memory.

While 2020 marked the beginning of a new decade, it is the global battle against the invisible enemy of Covid-19 it will be remembered for.

New Zealand’s response, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has been exemplary. New Zealanders have hunkered down, mostly followed the rules, and together seem to have broken the chain of transmission.

We have watched as Britain, the United States, Spain and Italy have been crushed by the virus.

And, now under Alert Level 3, I wonder what the new ‘normal’ will look like.

Like previous pandemics, viruses, even wars, it is often the aftermath that defines the destruction.

Covid-19 will leave in its wake a trail of devastation, particularly for businesses which will have had little income for a month, yet still have to pay their fixed running expenses.

The Government has done well in its efforts to keep the economy going with wage subsidies and assistance, but it is now up to us to carry that torch.

There will be challenging times ahead and we need to support our local businesses, particularly the small ones that trade from day-to-day, to help them come out the other side. If we don’t, we risk losing them, with many already reporting they may not survive this situation. I encourage and support us all to shop locally.

In Wairoa, our business is centred around primary industry. By nature, we are a resilient community and our iwi have already been working to gauge the business situation and to work out how best we can position ourselves to come out the other side. We are very fortunate to have an engaged forward-thinking iwi which has been instrumental in initiatives that will form part of our recovery post-pandemic.

For us moving forward means building on our strong and united community, and also working at a regional level.

I, like the majority of people, was totally against the 2015 Hawke’s Bay amalgamation proposal. But I must admit there have been positives to come out of that process as it has brought the five councils together, and we are now better at working as one for the betterment of Hawke’s Bay.

The Wairoa District Council is working on a raft of ‘shovel ready’ projects and is submitting applications totalling millions of dollars to Central Government funding platforms to kick start our economy once this viral nightmare is over.

We are also working with the other Hawke’s Bay councils to bring economic growth to the region post-pandemic.

We know in Hawke’s Bay ‘Great things grow here’, across both the agricultural and horticultural sectors.

It is fantastic to see the Government’s acknowledgement of our food providers being ‘essential’ as for years these primary producers have not been recognised for what they bring to the table.

I have been battling blanket forest planting for years and maybe now some of what we have been saying will be listened to, ‘you can’t eat trees’.

When this is over, people are going to be hungry, and it is our livestock and our fruit and vegetables that will get the world back on its feet.

It is amazing to see the reduction in pollution around the world since humans went into lockdown.

Livestock are certainly not self-isolating, yet the reduction is quite staggering. Once this Covid-19 battle is over I look forward to a review of the science around what is actually causing the detrimental effects on our environment.

While controlling the spread of Covid-19 has created restrictions, there are also opportunities and we must position ourselves to capitalise on these.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but that glow needs to be nurtured by continuing to show compassion and kindness to help rebuild our families, our communities and business.

How we pull out of this is up to each and every one of us.

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