Key Points:

  • New Zealand has moved into Covid Alert Level 2
  • Much-missed shops and services as well as tracks on Mauao reopen
  • Social distancing and basic hygiene still a requirement

1.29pm

Boaties' plans for a return to the water today have been delayed by a 3m swell.

Harbourmaster Peter Buell said about half a dozen recreational boats were seen in Tauranga Harbour, with about 20 trailers parked at the Sulphur Point boat ramps.

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"There was a 3-metre swell being recorded outside the harbour entrance and that may have kept a number of boaties away."

Rough sea conditions have not stopped some from heading back out on the water in Tauranga today. Photo / George Novak
Rough sea conditions have not stopped some from heading back out on the water in Tauranga today. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga Sportfishing Club manager Roly Bagshaw said he had expected to see more people heading out for a fish, but the weather was not cooperating.

Boaties had been joking for weeks, he said, about how the calm lockdown weather would end as soon as boating was allowed again

1.15pm

Long queues are forming outside The Warehouse outlets in Tauranga.

Papamoa Plaza manager David Hill said the "crazy" queue for The Warehouse Papamoa was snaking through the mall, past the Countdown and outside into the carpark.

It was moving quickly, however, and people were being polite.

Hill said he had been "pleasantly surprised by how nice everyone is being". He had extra staff ready to help people figure out the mall's new normal but they had barely been needed, even in the busy foodcourt.

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"The foodcourt is selling its socks off."

12.32pm

Fashion designer Toni-Marie Hood burst out laughing when asked for a photo during her pedicure at Hollywood Nails in Papamoa East.

"No-one will be surprised to see me here. I've been hanging out for it, so excited."

Getting her nails done was her "thing", she said. It was a family thing too - her mum and daughter had the appointments after her.

Toni-Marie Hood getting her nails done by Savita Gauthan. Photo / George Novak
Toni-Marie Hood getting her nails done by Savita Gauthan. Photo / George Novak

Hood said that after weeks of selling her label, X.LAB, to stockists over Zoom, she was getting herself ready to hit the road again and visit the stores in person.

11.07am:

Bayfair Shopping Centre is bustling, with the carpark fast filling up and most stores inside open.

Manager Steve Ellingford said he was very happy with how retailers were adjusting and that all businesses had made it through the lockdown Some had stricter protocols than others, with many doing contact tracing at the door.

Bayfair shopping centre Constable Mefi Taele, Casma More and Senior constable Brett Hoyte. Photo / George Novak
Bayfair shopping centre Constable Mefi Taele, Casma More and Senior constable Brett Hoyte. Photo / George Novak

Yellow and white stripes signs remind people to keep their distance and give limits on how many people can be in each store.

At makeup store Mecca Maxina, patrons are being temperature checked at the door by a staff member with a temperature gun.

Ellingford said there were queues outside he centre's walk-up barber's this morning, and appointment-only hair salons were doing longer hours.

He said about 15 people were waiting to entre Kmart when it opened at 8am.

Shoppers reported it was slow moving through the store with distancing protocols. Shopper Rebecca Burnett was stocking up on storage items and kids winter clothes.

A lawyer and mum of two, she said she knew what she wanted but it still took about half an hour due to queues in the store. A few older shoppers were wearing masks, but most people in the mall were not, though several were using the sanitizer provided at entries.

Mount Maunganui police officers Senior Constable Brett Hoyte and Constable Mefi Taele were roped into a social distancing demonstration photo with centre security supervisor Casma Moore.

10.21am:

Gym owner Estelle Baigent said she opened her business Bout Fitness at 5am this morning to a full class.

"I was like 'what are you guys doing, it's 5am," she said, with a laugh. Baigent said almost all classes for the day were fully booked.

"Everyone is just stoked to be back. It's definitely harder, no matter how you worked out at home. There are going to be some sore bodies."

The circuit was usually open for walk-ins but they switched to a class formula to ensure they could manage the numbers.

Hannah Mellsop was in a 9am gym class. Photo / George Novak
Hannah Mellsop was in a 9am gym class. Photo / George Novak

There was a 20min break between classes when all equipment would be sanitised.

Hannah Mellsop was in the 9am class - and she had the data on how her gym workout topped her efforts to replicate it in her backyard.

"I have an Apple watch. Today I did 412 calories in 35 minutes, at home that would usually be about 320 calories. Doing it with all your friends and with a trainer motivating you, you just work so much harder."

Mellsop is also a small business owner. She runs Real Rad Food, which is a wholesale supplier of raw cakes and the like for cafes and restaurants.

She was hoping to get about 50 per cent of her business up and running in level 2, and was optimistic about its prospects.

"It's been a tough time but it has given us the time to pivot and adapt our model. I'm really excited about what were going to be rolling out.
9.19am:

A short queue has former outside Maunganui Rd barber Cuts.

George Galvan was among the first to emerge, freshly shorn. He reckoned it was his first trim in 10 weeks.

"Just about filled a bale. Much lighter."

He was there by accident, having seen his regular barber was open on the way back from a walk up the Mount.

Hairdressers Andrea MacDougall and Pam Furey were inside in masks and face shields giving Margo Greenville and John Forrest a trim.

Hairdressers are busy at the Cuts barber shop downtown The Mount. Andrea MacDougal with client Margo Greenville. Photo / George Novak
Hairdressers are busy at the Cuts barber shop downtown The Mount. Andrea MacDougal with client Margo Greenville. Photo / George Novak

Greenville said she was very happy to be getting it done.

"It seems to have been a long time."

The Bay of Plenty Times has heard reports of queuing outside barbers in Pāpāmoa and the CBS as well.

Tania Holloway, owner of Bladez Barbers in Papamoa, said there was a queue of half a dozen waiting when she got in at 7.30am.

"Now they're lined up down to the ANZ. We're flat out."

George Galvan just got his long waited haircut at Cuts, downtown Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
George Galvan just got his long waited haircut at Cuts, downtown Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

She had four barber's working and clients were allowed in on a one-in-one-out basis.

"They just have to wait outside, that's the rules.

"Its good to be back, we're stoked to be open."
9.08am:

Sidetrack Cafe owner of 20 years Petre-Lee Anderson was bustling around spaced out tables of regulars.

"I'm the single server so I have to do everything."

She said the single server system was "a nightmare".

"It's very hard to educate the customers and open under the restrictions."

She was expecting to be trading at about 50 per cent of pre-lockdown normal in level 2, and was grateful for the govt wage subsidy.

Pat Workman, left, Colin McGonagle, Ray Guild, Jim Nielsen and Rod Aikin enjoy a coffee together. Photo/ George Novak
Pat Workman, left, Colin McGonagle, Ray Guild, Jim Nielsen and Rod Aikin enjoy a coffee together. Photo/ George Novak

"We'll be able to keep going but it's not enough."

Among her regulars was Colin McGonagle and a group of mates who have been coming for a regular 8am chat for "years".

He said it had been "strange" to be without it until level 3, when they had returned to pick up coffees whole staying in their bubbles.

It was great to be able to sit and chat again, McGonagle said

8.40am:

Distance dining is the name of the game for restaurants and cafes opening today.

Staff of Coffee Club Mount Maunganui were out measuring the distance between tables - one metre from the back of one pulled out chair to the one behind it.

"One metre is not very much," owner Janet Kim said.

She said she had opened for click and collect in Level 3 "to pay my rent".

In Level 2, she was opening with 40 per cent fewer tables than usual "which will mean way less revenue."

Sandra Blong measuring the distance between tables at The Coffee Club Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
Sandra Blong measuring the distance between tables at The Coffee Club Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

She was attempting to design the layout of the store so people would be able to social distance without thinking about it.

She said more public education about the rules was needed.

"People come in using cash and we have to say no."

8.05am:

There is a steady trickle of activewear-clad people coming off and heading up Mauao.

Among them were Mount locals Naomi Pianika, Hiria Rolleston and Ngawai Ormsby, who went up about 4am to watch the sun rise, and came down 3.5hours later.

Pianika said they went up "for an undisturbed experience without any other humans."

"We are slowly integrating ourselves back to reality."

The trio - all waka ama paddlers - agreed with the reasons for closing the maunga, and that their return today felt "right".

 Mount locals (from left) Naomi Pianika, Hiria Rolleston and Ngawai Ormsby. Photo / Samantha Motion
Mount locals (from left) Naomi Pianika, Hiria Rolleston and Ngawai Ormsby. Photo / Samantha Motion

It was also a chance for them to reconnect after weeks of catching up over video calls

Runner Bronwyn-Anne Lightbody, from Maungatapu, said it was "wonderful" to be back.

"Normally i run around 5-6 days a week so to get back around the Mount is just great.

Also among the walkers was former NZ squash champion and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy. She and husband John Oakley took the stairs to the top.

Dame Susan Devoy and husband John Oakley at Mauao this morning. Photo / Samantha Motion
Dame Susan Devoy and husband John Oakley at Mauao this morning. Photo / Samantha Motion

"Were ecstatic and so is everyone else up there. Its the first thing of life being back to normal for us."

Devoy said it wasn't as busy as she thought - "I suppose everyone has to go back to work" - but people were doing a pretty good job of keeping their distance.

"Everyone's got the traffic rules."

She said it would have been "mayhem" if authorities had tried to keep Mauao closed. She hadn't, however, been able to get a hair appointment "for love nor money".

EARLIER:

The traffic is back and Mauao is busy as Tauranga people embrace their level 2 freedoms.

Along with a host of much-missed shops and services, the tracks up and around Mauao will open today after a nearly two-month closure in the fight to stop the spread of Covid-19.

But it's not yet business as usual, with stringent distancing and sanitation protocols still required.

Traffic on Hewletts Rd this morning. Photo / George Novak
Traffic on Hewletts Rd this morning. Photo / George Novak

Mauao's tracks reopened today after a 5am blessing at the base to lift the rahui.

Tauranga City Council has labelled Mauao a "Covid-19 high-risk area" due to the number of visitors, social distancing difficulties and inability to contract trace users.

The council warned people should keep away from others (ideally 2m), give way on narrow sections, and avoid both passing others and stopping mid-track to chat.

The Matapihi Rail Bridge has also reopened with a similar warning.

The city's 107 public playgrounds will also open today, after a deep clean, along with council service centres. Transfer stations will resume all services.

On-street parking is free for two weeks with CBD workers encouraged to support businesses by keeping them free for shoppers. Off-street parking such as parking buildings are free for the first two hours only.

Businesses in Tauranga's mainstreet areas - the CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui - have banded together to launch a buy local campaign this week, encouraging people to back local retailers, many of which will open their doors today for the first time nearly two months.

Malls are also expected to be busy, with Tauranga Crossing, Bayfair and Papamoa Plaza all confirming they will open today.

Boat ramps may also see queues, with boaties able to head out on the water again.

Sulphur Point boat ramp this morning. Photo / George Novak
Sulphur Point boat ramp this morning. Photo / George Novak

A temporary ban on vehicles on all beaches in the western Bay of Plenty will be also be lifted, with usual council bylaws applying.

Baywave and Mount Hot Pools will open tomorrow, followed by libraries next week, schools and early childhood centres from Monday and bars from Thursday.

Picnic tables, public BBQs and drinking fountains remain off-limits in level 2.

Play it safe: Level 2 golden rules

- COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe.
- Keep your distance from other people in public.
- If you're sick, stay home. Don't go to work or school. Don't socialise.
- If you have symptoms of cold or flu call your doctor or Healthline and get advice about being tested.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
- Sneeze and cough into your elbow, regularly disinfect surfaces.
- If you have been told to self-isolate you must do so immediately.
- Keep track of where you've been and who you've seen.

- More to come
Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website