In her press briefing on 26th October, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern left out her trademark “Stay Safe – Be Kind” sign off. Perhaps the message is getting through to her PR team that the line is wearing a little thin with her locked-up and frustrated audience?
The Recovery Roadmap set out by the NZ government is strong on mandates and targets for its population but gives itself a pass on its own KPIs, with no dates on easing restrictions, opening borders or tangible support for industries like business events for example. If Australia is a late starter in the global COVID recovery race, New Zealand is still in the changing room. New Zealand has no business plan to deliver a recovery.
The New Zealand government has imposed an ambitious, possibly impossible, target of 90% vaccination of its eligible population for the country to open up. This has been underpinned by a mandate for 40% of its workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs, which if experience of other countries is anything to go by, will cause significant disruption, protests and skills shortages. Furthermore, PM Jacinda Ardern has stated on video and clarified the question from a journalist, that she’s quite prepared for her country to end up with a two tier (apartheid – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated) population to achieve her government’s goal. None of this helps the business events sector and in the face of such confrontational language, there is no point in being anything other than direct in response.
When the new COVID restrictions in New Zealand began on 8th September, running any type of business event became almost impossible. In an appeal to government Lisa Hopkins CEO of Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) made it quite clear that slogans and platitudes wouldn’t do. “We are not asking for business advice and implementation support” she said (possibly through gritted teeth). “These businesses have already proved to be sustainable and viable. They just need to keep the lights on and staff employed, so they can play their vital role in New Zealand’s recovery and reconnection with the world.” In other words “We are adults and we don’t need a cuddle, we want tangible support.”
New Zealand’s government is not the only offender to lean on slogans in-place of well thought out policy and risk management. Just about every Australian state premier and federal leader has been guilty. From PM Scott Morrison’s repeated and regrettable line “it’s not a race”, in relation to slow vaccination rates due to lack of vaccine supply, to Victoria premier Dan Andrews’ Orwellian slogan devised by M&C Saatchi “Staying apart keeps us together”. PM Scott Morrison’s comments resulted in vaccine complacency, lockdowns and a huge cost to business, not to mention human suffering. And Victoria’s capital Melbourne is now internationally recognised as ‘the Most Locked-Down City in the World’ with a population pushed to the edge of its collective patience.
So much for slogans.