One of the great strengths of this country is its tradition of striking out on your own and trying your hand at working for yourself. Setting up a small business and having a go. It's part of our DNA.
Go back far enough and all our ancestors were adventurers who travelled to these islands. They had to fend for themselves, work hard, make what they and their families needed, and create enterprises where there were none.
Today that self-starting spirit endures, whether it shows up in big aspirations like sending rockets to the moon and designing computer graphics for world sporting events, or smaller ones like having your own hairdressing salon, cafe, or gardening business.
People who take risks and are prepared to have a go have made this country what it is, and their energy and courage will take it further still.
Which is one reason why the impacts of these lockdowns trouble me so much. The impact on the people who own so many businesses prevented from operating, who are Kiwis just like you and me, is more immense than it is for most.
If you are in a government job, work for a big corporate that shuffles data for a living, or in the professions, lockdown has been a pain and it has certainly cramped your style, but your income keeps coming in the door. For these people it doesn't.
And it seems far too many of us don't understand the pressure and pain they are feeling. Or just ignore it.
Maybe it is hard to imagine if you have never been there. Taking responsibility for paying the rent, the power bill, and all your suppliers, whether or not you have customers or revenue coming through the door.
To feel personally responsible for the incomes of your staff, and for their families' wellbeing. To have to call the bank to ask for a bigger loan or overdraft, or a bigger mortgage because your house is the only collateral the bank will take.
To postpone your dreams five years or abandon them completely after years of hard work, because that's how far these lockdowns have set you back.
Most affected businesses this time around are suffering in silence. Whole industries decimated by border closures and lockdowns the first time, like tourism, hospitality or education, spoke up then.
But they were often given the cold shoulder by others in the team of five million. I can recall some keyboard warriors declaring that if such businesses couldn't afford a couple of months of zero income then they didn't really have a business plan.
This time round most are quieter. Whether it's fear of speaking up, or resignation, we don't tend to hear as much from them at least until they hang out the closing down sign. Or they say nothing at all. They are the cafe that was there last week but where the empty windows are now.
The powers that be have reactivated the Covid wage subsidy and that's good, as far as it goes. But it was always intended as a Band-Aid to keep workers attached to their place of employment.
It doesn't cover the rent, the rates, the electricity, the HP on the equipment, the vehicle lease, or the spoilt food. And if that wasn't enough there are new headaches.
The doubling of paid sick leave in July this year, the big annual hikes in the minimum wage you must pay for your newest workers, and the post-Covid prospect of your wage bill and conditions being set in far off Wellington by people that have never set foot in a shop in Dargaville, Palmerston North, or Timaru.
Cue the armchair entrepreneurs again. "If you can't afford to pay a 'living wage' then you don't have a viable business." I wonder what the venn diagram looks like between people who express that sentiment and the people who complain about high menu prices in restaurants, for example.
The arbitrary pettiness of the lockdown rules drive some business owners bonkers. The small food shops that can't open while supermarkets can, ostensibly because their public health systems won't be robust enough.
Of course we trust them to sell perishable food at other times. Or the arbitrary restrictions on the number of people in your cafe in towns that haven't had Covid for months and months.
One extraordinary example of bureaucratic silliness this week was the news seasonal fruit-pickers from Covid-free countries (note that bit) will no longer be allowed to enter New Zealand without quarantine as had been planned, ostensibly because of Delta.
I listened to the minister trying to explain this logical nonsense on the radio. He made it worse by saying they would be allowed half the quarantine time of other people, which presumably is supposed to be a nod to the fact they carry no risk. I fear for orchardists facing a second year of fruit rotting on the ground.
At the bigger end of Kiwi entrepreneurialism, our clever high-tech exporters have now been prevented from entering or leaving the country in a practical sense for more than a year, with or without vaccines. Often quite big in New Zealand terms, they are all tiny on the world stage.
At some point the goodwill they are trading on to compensate their inability to meet clients face to face is going to run out.
It is ironic for a country that has been trying to diversify its exports for 30 years that the only exporters able to operate their businesses over lockdown are our primary industries.
The rest of us sail serenely along in our bubbles. We've inflated our economy so much with debt and printed money the people in economic pain are almost completely invisible to us.
We have a zero tolerance for Covid health casualties, but not so much for the economic casualties.
I hope not too many are put off from taking risks and growing a business in the way we all deserted the stock market for decades after the 1987 crash.
The small businesses, the tiny businesses, and the niche exporters, are all carrying a massive share of the cost of this pandemic. That needs to be acknowledged and responded to more by everyone else, from the Beehive down.
We all didn't choose to have the pandemic disrupt our lives. But these people are paying in a far more brutal and long-lasting way than most.
- Steven Joyce is a former National MP and Minister of Finance.