Community leaders have reacted positively to the Government's decision to wait until next week before New Zealand moves to alert level 3 – however, concerns for businesses remain as not everyone will be allowed to operate again.
As New Zealand reports nine new cases of Covid-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced cabinet's decision yesterday to move out of the current level 4 lockdown on Monday 11.59pm – extending alert level 4 for another week.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai believes this is a "wise course of action giving that Monday was going to be a public holiday anyway".
She said it would give business across the district some extra days to prepare for how they can re-open their business safely in level 3.
"Obviously some businesses will not be able to operate, and they will be struggling to figure out how much longer this going to go on for."
Mai said it was important to reinforce the message that we are still in alert level 4 until Tuesday – especially with Anzac weekend ahead.
"Hopefully the message will remain that we should be staying at home and keep our bubble tight. But inevitably I would imagine that the traffic on the road will increase as people are breathing a sigh of relief."
Mai said the district would be facing changes in the coming months and council would continue working with businesses to mitigate damaging effects of the lockdown.
However, changes could also provide opportunity, especially in re-building the Whangārei town centre.
Far North mayor John Carter agrees with Mai in saying the Government made the right call and the extra days in level 4 would give the district time to prepare.
Editorial: Level 3 step in right direction - no matter what it looks like
Waitangi checkpoints protecting elderly, group says
Shane Reti: Being your electorate MP at this time is a privilege
"It gives us time to take all the sensible and practical steps to make sure as businesses open, they are safe."
Carter said while we didn't understand the scope yet, the impact of Covid-19 was serious.
"We mustn't forget that a month prior to the lockdown we started on the drought crises and that's still with us as well. In areas like Northland, we have a double whammy."
He said Ardern's announcement was giving people a sense of relief and certainty, and it gave people time to go into level 3 with confidence.
"It gives us hope, and with hope people can start thinking positively about our future, expecting that we've got serious challenges ahead of us."
Kaipara mayor Jason Smith predicts a steady transition back into the business activity in Kaipara as most of its economy is based on farming which was continued through the lockdown.
Smith said people in Kaipara were sensible and would continue sticking to the lockdown rules over the Anzac weekend and beyond.
According to Ardern's announcement yesterday, businesses will be allowed to get ready to open this week, such as employers re-entering premises to receive stock if necessary.
Schools and early learning centres can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and any other preparations, and open for students from April 29.
"Alert level 3 allows more economic activity like construction, manufacturing and forestry, but it does not allow more social activity," Ardern said.
Ardern believes the longer we are in lockdown, the less likely it was we will need to go back.
While lockdown at level 3 will give New Zealanders more freedom to move around, the Government reminds people to limit interactions with others as it was the "best defence against Covid-19".
Under level 3 Kiwis must continue to stay in their bubbles whenever they are not at work, school, buying the groceries or exercising.
Activities can be done locally, including visiting the nearest beach or park. Staying overnight at a bach or holiday home is not permitted.
Northland Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve Smith said while the majority of people were "busting to go back to work", not everybody was as enthusiastic as some are afraid put their family at risk if they expose themselves to others.
"There is also some indication that certain elements of society may have already starting to become institutionalised. They just don't want to come back."
He also said while businesses starting to pick up their operations again, it remains unclear what working "safely" means.
"The big question is, what are the conditions for returning to work?"
However, for some operations it would be back to business as usual as social distancing is part of their daily routine.
The Ministry of Primary Industry has advised that businesses wanting to operate in level 3 will have to develop site-specific procedures and processes to work safely to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Forest Owners Association says its members and the supply chain are gearing up to meet the challenge of getting back to work on Tuesday.
"The New Zealand timber processing industry has a whole month of virtually no production which it needs to catch up on," Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said.
"Some processors have already started producing for essential industries, such as making pallets for fruit exporters. But there will be thousands of worksites around New Zealand which are anxious for new timber supplies and construction workers keen to get back on the job and earning incomes as soon as they can."
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Northland cases hold at 27, NZ tally rises
• Covid-19 coronavirus: New Northland case in Whangārei hospital
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Report shows Northland cases' transmission sources
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Northland DHB urges Kaikohe New World shoppers to keep eye on their health
Meanwhile, the Whangārei Growers Markets remains closed during alert level 3, putting more stress on growers amid the ongoing drought.
General manager Robert Bradley said it would mean that more crops go under the hoe.
"We just have to live with it. Some people are surviving by shipping fruit and vegetable boxes.
But they are no substitute for the market – neither for the growers nor the customers."
The market was previously allowed to operate at alert level 2. Bradley said the longer alert level 3 remains in place, the more difficult the situation would be for growers.
Other businesses from the region regarded the announcement with mixed feelings.
The owner of 39 Gillies St Cafe in Kawakawa, Cathryn Baragwanath, said the move to level 3 on April 27 is "great news".
Café staff are "already mentally prepped" to open for click and collect, and there will be a maximum of two staff on site, she said.
"Doing something is better than nothing and watching the world move around us," she said.
"It's getting our community and economy moving in a positive direction. At the moment we're sitting here stagnant."
Rod MacIvor, owner of the Kerikeri-based Marsden Estate Winery, said it was "business as usual at the winery".
But level 3 won't work for the restaurant, which will be closed until the country drops to alert Level 2.
"It's just not viable for us to do takeaways," he said.
"We're fortunate to have been around for some time, so we can weather the fact the restaurant will be closed for a time.
"We can't control that [Government] decision, but what we can control is the quality of the grapes and what we do going forward."
For Jono Reeves, Whangārei real estate agent and member of business networking group BNI, the Covid-19 crisis will mean businesses have to adapt long term.
"I have the sense that the community is listening and open for change after the initial shock of lockdown. Until we get a vaccine we must adapt and be open to adapting ourselves to this unique situation," Reeves said.
"Some businesses have closed shop completely and will restructure the business to fit the new normal. Businesspeople might have to make tough decisions setting up new steps on how to restart."