The last two years for New Zealand travel, events and hospitality businesses have been, let’s say, turbulent at best and for some a disaster. I’m sure many other industries are also suffering, however these sectors feel it most when the tap turns off, as it did in March 2020 and has done so frequently with domestic travellers for us over the past 24 months. There are many reasons Covid-19 has had more impact on these sectors than any others, but for the most part it’s due to relying on longer lead times for travel, both from a cost and a distance perspective. The confidence to travel has been low due to our ‘yo-yoing’ in and out of lockdowns and of course, ultimately travellers are unable to get here!
We’ve gone from Alert Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4, to Level 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and most recently, the fabled Traffic Light System. But overall, the narrative hasn’t changed. We’ve used the same failing MIQ [hotel quarantine] system since April 2020, we’re using the same testing methods, the same lockdown measures, the same restrictions and the same vaccination narrative we’ve been using since February 2020.
I am well versed in the effects of lockdowns and COVID from a professional perspective, running two inbound tour operations businesses however, from a personal perspective I am also heavily affected. I’m a foreign national residing in NZ, with all my family overseas and have lost two friends – one to COVID and one to suicide in recent weeks.
Echoing Adam Leslie’s comments in a previous column, I do understand COVID-19 should still be taken very seriously and that up to now, the aim has been solely to protect New Zealand’s (wildly under-resourced and under-funded) healthcare system. After two years into COVID-19 and having had the opportunity to view the spread from an outside perspective, surely we’ve had enough time to make changes to our healthcare system and immigration policies to allow doctors and nurses into New Zealand? In September 2021 there were still over 3,000 nurses and doctors with job offers, waiting for immigration applications to be processed to allow them to enter NZ and start working for our healthcare system – 3,000! We only have approximately 16,000 qualified doctors and 58,000 registered nurses now, so one would assume adding another 3,000+ would be of the highest priority? Clearly not.
New Zealand has been fed an inherent narrative of fear by our media, and our government has used lockdowns to ‘hang time’ in order to come up with some form of strategic plan (I use the word strategic lightly). We’re still waiting!
So how do we move forward in 2022?
Lockdowns have come at a huge price, both economically and personally for many. There are now over 140 studies citing its damaging effects to society; Suffering education, childhood development & social development, increases in inequality gaps, late health diagnoses causing further fatalities, mental health problems & suicides to name just a few. Then on a personal level, split loved ones & families, people not being able to attend weddings, births and their own loved one’s funerals – this has to stop.
New Zealand’s Labour Government needs to start listening and considering all the advice and not just the pieces that suit their narrative. Rapid antigen testing kits need to be made available immediately on a widespread basis (and be cost effective) and they need to partner with the private sector to put plans in place to reconnect New Zealand safely to the world. Because together, we are smarter.
My initial predictions for 2022
I suspect New Zealand passport holders in Australia will be able to return to NZ from early March without entering government managed MIQ and instead be allowed to self-isolate. The reason I suspect this, is that an MIQ room release was made for March and April however, kiwi passport holders in Australia were, for some unexplained reason, locked out of entering the MIQ lobby.
The logical reason for the lockout, I believe, is that the government is going to allow New Zealanders in Australia to return home with self isolation from around the same time and they want to save MIQ space for ‘rest of world’ kiwi’s. Although, why we need to speculate and they not let everyone know their plans, is beyond me.
I’m confident we’ll also see a more solid plan for reconnecting New Zealand to the world as we move to the end of Q1 this year. Let’s face it, the election really isn’t far away and the public swing away from support to a narrative of disbelief, and distrust of this government’s abilities, is becoming more evident as time lapses.
We are due for a government update on the 17th of January, which I’m sure will provide further material for analysis and predictions next time. So strap in, we’re on this rollercoaster together!
He Waka Eke Noa
Eve Lawrence Haka Tourism Group