COVID-19 Journal – NZ Edition #3

We hit Alert Level 2 last week which has meant that a lot of business has reopened. Hairdressers, retail and more importantly schools. I’m not sure the kids were as excited as I was about going back. Six weeks on has taken its toll. While I think the girls, (maybe just the youngest), has loved being at home, everyone’s looking forward to a bit more structure. Like the rest of the world, we’re still at a social distance, in supermarkets, it’s feeling a little more relaxed than it has been for a long time.

My wife has been working on a start-up for several years. She’s in the area of sustainability through circular design, thinking that is escalating globally at a rapid rate and is sorely needed. Her company, Circularity kicked off with a series of workshops she launched four weeks before everything was shut down. She persevered, pivoted to online with Zoom, (which must be one of the few companies absolutely geared for this pandemic), and managed to complete it which was no small feat.

With the easing of restrictions, we were eager to sneak in a short holiday before the girls headed back to school. We made it to my favourite island. Waiheke’s a quick jaunt from downtown Auckland. It’s a little over thirty minutes by ferry and is the jewel in the crown of Tipaka Moana -œthe Mournful Sea,- or as we know it – the Hauraki Gulf. It’s Surrounded by three other major islands and a dormant volcano named Rangitoto. It’s a little piece of paradise with thirty-odd vineyards, all of which are lifting their game year after year to attract tourists with helicopter pads and boutique beer cellars. With a population of about 8,000 which swells to more than 30,000 in summer, there’s no doubt that COVID will be slowing that down.

We took everything with us. Two surfboards, two kayaks, three bikes and a guinea pig (sadly we lost one during lockdown), so we opted for the car ferry. We had to stay inside our cars as we glided across the ocean. We had to turn down dinner with friends when our numbers were going to exceed ten, there are still no gatherings here beyond that. I made it out fishing. Just three of us floating in a small vessel on the blue-green skin of the ocean that keeps us all sane. The sky continues to remain large, the sunsets golden, the land looks settled, pleased for the timeout. We hauled in some great Snapper, a few Trevally and a large Kahawai, more than enough for a meal and few a sandwiches. 

I got to swim, cycle and even made it to a vineyard. There were three couples inside a room that would typically take forty. It was late afternoon so we may have beat the dinner rush. It felt odd to be out. I keep banging on about the weather, though it’s hard not too. I’m a snowboarder and motorcyclist, so I’m forever watching it. We don’t typically swim in winter – in board shorts anyway. It’s cold, though the skies are clear. So clear that Auckland is now in drought. Showers are capped at four minutes or less and no one is allowed to water their garden from the mains supply. Things continue to change. Jacinda’s talking about a four-day workweek. Who wouldn’t want that? The productivity would likely remain high, though we’d need to match the market with what we earn.

There’s not much going on here, which means it’ll be the left to the domestic dollar to make ends meet. In a way we’re excited. To support local, to have the run of the roads, some of the worlds best walkways at our fingertips without being inundated with the heavy numbers of tourism. Granted, it’ll be a short term benefit. We need them. Jacinda’s being lauded locally and around the world for her leadership which is well-deserved. It’s the third crisis under her watch in the last eighteen months which she’s managed with aplomb. Like the US we’re in an election year. Labour – our current leaders are likely to storm back in if the current polls are anything to go by. National, the other major opposing party, in disarray.

There’s only one thing I’m torn on, our reliance on the big corporates like Progressive and Foodstuffs for our food and vegetables. I’m guilty of shopping at Countdown. I’m told my local supermarket is their busiest in New Zealand. It’s convenient, massive with large aisles that look all the better right now and I know where everything is. Though the profits head across the Tasman. There are so many great local businesses. It seems that when they needed support, the government handed the big guys a monopoly, the opposite of what we’ve done for petrol. Don’t get me wrong, we’d be lost without them, though there was room for the small guy. It would have reduced risk so smacks of something else. I hope the locals manage to pull through.

Here’s something else I’d like to change, the result in the US. This is Trumps 2020 ad, it looks like he’s spent some money.