This year has been the most challenging of years in so many ways. We've heard "new normal", "next normal" and many other iterations of the concept that the world as we knew it, has fundamentally changed.
Being in lockdown, which was unimaginable pre-Covid, is something we've all just had to accept and adjust to. For the most part, we've done a pretty decent job of it - but only history will decide whether our Government took the right course of action.
Our team of five million continues to do well in crushing the curve but the upsurge in crime over this period is a significant cause for concern for me, and I'm sure for many of my colleagues who run town centres around the country.
We've seen spikes in petty crime, theft, violence and general undesirable behaviour. The police are stretched and constantly re-prioritising what to focus resources on. Something considered to be high alert today, may, when compared to what's going on at the time, not be critical tomorrow.
I've heard Police Minister Stuart Nash mention that, on average, 60 new officers are sworn in a month to operate on our frontlines. We still desperately need more in our communities, so keep them coming.
The police need to work pan-government as a lot of these challenges come down to the surprising disconnect between various central and local government agencies. For reasons beyond my comprehension, it seems they're not able to work collaboratively to deliver actual solutions.
Most retailers will know all too well the issue with constantly simmering theft - some have to grapple with it on a daily basis. Stories of products being stolen to order and "gangs" sweeping through shopping streets collecting their loot are far too regular. This needs to be nipped in the bud – hard and fast. Without a commitment to quashing the situation, it will continue to fester and grow.
Walking down some of New Zealand's most iconic main streets is no longer what it once was. Rough sleeping and begging have become a regular sight, and not just in our main centres. These days, this activity extends far beyond central city areas. While these issues are complex and intersected with other social issues - like mental health challenges and addiction - I don't know a single New Zealander that would wish this upon fellow community members.
Despite being a modern, Western democracy, we're consistently failing the most vulnerable in our society. Rather than seeing improvement, it just gets incrementally worse year on year. Street communities are our community, but where is their support? I have to wonder what the Ministry of Social Development actually does.
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Whenever you tune into the news, you hear politicians quoting statistics about how "this has improved" or "that issue has got better" but this is not reflected in our personal experiences at the heart of the community.
The missing piece is actual, demonstrable improvements. We just don't see them.
While some will write this off because these agencies supposedly work together, I have to seriously challenge that. After recently reaching out to several government agencies expressing my concerns on behalf of businesses, the only follow-up I had was from the
I applaud the New Zealand Police – they do a remarkable job, and in very challenging conditions. It's unfortunate they get lumped with covering the responsibilities that are abdicated by other agencies. This needs significant improvement.
In the upcoming election, crime should be a key issue, and one that we must demand progress with. Because the view of the world from a ministerial car, is clearly different to reality.
• Mark Knoff-Thomas is the CEO of the Newmarket Business Association.