For 49 days New Zealand came to an absolute standstill after moving into level 4 lockdown on March 26.

Today – seven weeks on – Kiwis carefully smell the fresh air of freedom, and finally get a haircut.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urges the nation to "play it safe" and keep up social distancing practices, the Government is now allowing businesses to open and for people to leave their bubble.

Northern Advocate reporters Peter de Graaf and Kristin Edge and photographer Michael Cunningham went out and about to see what Northlanders got up to on the first day of level 2:

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In Whangārei, Okara Park has back to life: the car park is nearly full and the lines outside the Warehouse and other stores are over 100m long.

Not everyone seems to keep to the two-metre distance rule, and there is some tension in the air but police are patrolling the area.

There is a steady flow of traffic coming from State Highway 1 into town heading towards Okara Park.

Shoppers waiting patiently at Okara Park. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Shoppers waiting patiently at Okara Park. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The public car parks in central Whangārei and the Town Basin that were notably empty during level 4 and 3 are starting to fill up while the CBD is slowly getting some foot traffic.

There are queues outside every single barber and hairdressers in town with people waiting patiently for the eagerly awaited haircut.

Stores in central Whangārei are tempting shoppers with sales with plenty of people keen to get a bargain. Telecommunication stores are particularly popular, and many people are chasing up some Lotto tickets.

Most businesses have sanitation station at shop entrance with customers washing hands on their way in and business owners are taking names of people coming into shops for contact tracing.

The CBD is also filled with delivery trucks, finally able to access shops and drop off items.

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Shoppers not quite following the distancing rules. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Shoppers not quite following the distancing rules. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Meanwhile, in Kerikeri, the excitement was palpable as shop owners unlocked their stores, swept footpaths and got ready to welcome customers inside for the first time in seven weeks.

There was a steady buzz of traffic from about 8am, with the odd driver tooting in celebration, and most parking spots along the main street were taken.

The biggest, and earliest, queues were outside the barbershops, where everyone from farmers to lawyers waited for the chance to get unruly lockdown hair back under control.

A customer who would give his name only as Gerry had been waiting outside Groomsmen Barbershop in the Cobblestone Mall since 7.30am. It was a long wait — the shop didn't open until 8.45am — but at least he was first in line.

Greer Crookshanks arrives at Groomsmen Barbershop in Kerikeri for what promises to be a very busy day. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Greer Crookshanks arrives at Groomsmen Barbershop in Kerikeri for what promises to be a very busy day. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Gerry said he's tried to get his hair cut on the last day before the lockdown but missed out because the crowd was too big.

''I'm looking forward to it. I thought I'd better get in early and get it out of the way.''

Darcy Thorburn had also been due for a cut just before the lockdown but missed out.

''Now I've got two haircuts sitting on top of my head, I reckon,'' he said.

Across the road at Himself barbershop, barbers Stephen Timings and Lance Jonas — both wearing gloves and face shields — could barely keep up with demand. The phone was going non-stop and by 9am every slot to 5pm had been filled.

The next busiest place in Kerikeri was probably Barrow Brothers Coffee Company.

With some cafes yet to re-open, the ones that had fired up their espresso machines were inundated with customers looking for a caffeine fix and a catch-up with friends.

Tables had been spaced out and customers were asked to give their contact details but otherwise it was just a busy version of business as usual.

Owner Miles Toto hadn't had a break since the doors opened at 7am and was still too busy to talk.

''It's humming,'' he said.

Ferment owner Steve White, of Kerikeri, gets ready to reopen as a wine shop with another week to go before he can open the bar. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Ferment owner Steve White, of Kerikeri, gets ready to reopen as a wine shop with another week to go before he can open the bar. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Steve White, the owner of Ferment bar and wine shop, had a coffee window open during level 3 but was able to reopen the shop this morning for wine sales.

The bar, however, had to stay closed for another week, and when it did reopen it would be with half the number of tables, no ordering at the bar and with seated patrons only.

White said he'd been lucky because he was able to do wine deliveries during the lockdown, keeping some income trickling in.

People have been waiting outside Bank Street Barber from at least 7am to finally get rid of the mane of hair. Photo / Kristin Edge
People have been waiting outside Bank Street Barber from at least 7am to finally get rid of the mane of hair. Photo / Kristin Edge
Northland sporting legends Neville Rae, Ian Babe and Peter Wilkinson are happy as to catch up for a walk and a coffee - something that they've been doing for over 14 years. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northland sporting legends Neville Rae, Ian Babe and Peter Wilkinson are happy as to catch up for a walk and a coffee - something that they've been doing for over 14 years. Photo / Michael Cunningham
11-year-old Rawiri Connor came prepared to wait for a haircut: 0 on the sides a trim on top and a mullet at the back. Photo / Kristin Edge
11-year-old Rawiri Connor came prepared to wait for a haircut: 0 on the sides a trim on top and a mullet at the back. Photo / Kristin Edge
Chaos descends on Himself barbers Lance Jonas, left, and Stephen Timing as the entire population of Kerikeri decides to get their hair cut at once. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Chaos descends on Himself barbers Lance Jonas, left, and Stephen Timing as the entire population of Kerikeri decides to get their hair cut at once. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Customers were waiting outside Groomsmen Barbershop in Kerikeri from 7.30am, more than an hour before the shop opened. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Customers were waiting outside Groomsmen Barbershop in Kerikeri from 7.30am, more than an hour before the shop opened. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Chloe Ayton, of Pallet Design in Kerikeri, gets ready for re-opening after a seven-week closure. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Chloe Ayton, of Pallet Design in Kerikeri, gets ready for re-opening after a seven-week closure. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Lynda Adams and granddaughter Hannah Cook get their shop ship-shape ahead of Thursday's reopening. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Lynda Adams and granddaughter Hannah Cook get their shop ship-shape ahead of Thursday's reopening. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Andy Hancox from Whangārei has been pulling his hair out for eight weeks waiting for a trim at the Barbers in Bank St. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Andy Hancox from Whangārei has been pulling his hair out for eight weeks waiting for a trim at the Barbers in Bank St. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The Okara Park car park is filling up. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The Okara Park car park is filling up. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Tibetan Monk Karma Gyasey is pleased to be at work at the Himalayan Trading Post Whangārei CBD, enjoying passersby, the sunshine and seeing work mates. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Tibetan Monk Karma Gyasey is pleased to be at work at the Himalayan Trading Post Whangārei CBD, enjoying passersby, the sunshine and seeing work mates. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Traffic queues heading towards Okara Park shopping centre reminiscent of Christmas time. Photo / Kristin Edge
Traffic queues heading towards Okara Park shopping centre reminiscent of Christmas time. Photo / Kristin Edge
A steady stream of traffic north and south bound on State Highway 1, Otaika. Photo / Michael Cunningham
A steady stream of traffic north and south bound on State Highway 1, Otaika. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Friends finally catching up for lunch at Cameron St Mall. Photo / Kristin Edge
Friends finally catching up for lunch at Cameron St Mall. Photo / Kristin Edge