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Starving this virus the main game

Opinion Piece

A “what's on in council this week” has turned into a what's not on. The extraordinary nature of the crisis is impacting on us all and will seemingly do so for quite some time.

The functions of council by their very nature have risk factors and responsibilities which sent the organisation into high alert and rapid responsiveness. Our responsibilities to health and safety are far-reaching.

Front of mind is our staff. The council building houses more than 200 people most of the time, and safe distances are not that easily achieved. Doing business remotely is actively being progressed.

The instructions came through early and with clarity; hygiene awareness is critical with handwashing and sneezing into one's elbow being constantly reinforced messages, as is that of staying home if feeling unwell.

Councillors were looking forward to a three-day trip around our district which will be re-scheduled. There were meetings scheduled but only the most vital will go ahead and those will be conducted in a very controlled environment.

The other area of responsibility is reflected in the vastness of the council infrastructure; public facilities such as toilets, theatres, meeting spaces, library, pool etc. All attract public to associate in gatherings and often in confined spaces. It is with regret these facilities will be off limits for some time.

Starving this virus is the main game and the effort is on us all. I am sure I am not alone in the hope that this phenomenon falls well, well short of its potential. To me, the hardline approach is the most sensible and has been accepted by the council and, it would seem, the New Zealand community.

While our collective health is the primary focus and concern, we must be aware and proactive in regards to the security of our community in other facets. I am no economist but fully understand just how hard this is likely to impact on so many of us; actually, many millions worldwide. That's millions of families hugely impacted through no fault other than having been at the stage they are at this moment in time.

We take pride in our resilience but the unfortunate reality is that the intensifying financial adversity is going to inflict considerable pain. Hence we, as a region, are grateful to the government's recognition and commitment to resource and work with us on the essential redeployment. We should be proud when a Minister states of Tairawhiti: “Government were able to move quickly and help because of the leadership shown by local government, industry and iwi — that leadership was critical.” Economic Development Minster Phil Twyford continued: “It made it easy for us to support the region.”

It is understood that potential redeployments may be unsavoury to many but the impacts of alternatives, especially sudden long-term unemployment, could be catastrophic. My unqualified advice is to hang in there. While nobody can indicate timelines, this trauma will pass. The aim is to be well-placed to leap well at the starter's gun.

I have seen eyes reflecting concern. I have seen stress-related behaviour. I have seen shadows of fear. We are in this together and it is such a time that we need to truly be there for each other.

“He aroha whakato, he aroha puta mai” — If kindness is sown, then kindness you will receive.

We are in a time where empathy and consideration is even more important. We are in this together and we will get out of it together. Gisborne is uniquely placed to weather this viral storm, but we must all respect and follow the key instructions. Kia Kaha Tairawhiti.