We have been truly blessed as a nation by a government matching head with heart, resolve with compassion.

The overall toll of Covid-19 on our country will be massively reduced as a result of the decisions they have made, at lightning pace, under pressure, no doubt sleep deprived, and without any frame of reference. There is simply no precedent to draw on.

The firm, calm and kind leadership from government means we are left feeling more safe and secure in our "bubbles". Despite the enforced self-isolation, in some ways we seem more connected than ever before. I don't know about you, but having been "left to our own devices", I haven't spent so much time on Facebook, Zoom and WhatsApp in my life.

Not everyone may be as lucky of course. Not all bubbles are created equal, and in some, real tension or worse may be suffered as the stress of actual isolation or not having enough money coming in takes its toll.


We should not overlook, ignore or be blind to this sinister effect of the essential Covid-19 response. We all have a duty to reach out, and council employees across the region are being recruited into the Civil Defence emergency response, providing welfare support where community networks cannot reach.

For me, it was only on receiving a briefing at the Regional Council from our CEO a couple of weeks ago that I began to fully realise the reach of this virus. While our essential services are secure, everything else we do as a council, indeed as a society, has to be reimagined.

Until a couple of weeks ago we thought this summer's drought was a major and devastating blow for the region's farming communities and our local economy. It was and is, but now last month's big headache seems dwarfed by a situation which autumn rains cannot touch, let alone resolve.

Stepping back and with more time on my hands, I began to wonder, what good can become of all of this? How can we possibly turn this dire situation to our advantage? Should we even pretend that is possible?

As Bryan Gould shared in his Talking Point on April 1, the answer lies in what we learn from the experience, about our world, about ourselves, and about each other. Basically, about what really matters.

One thing we have learnt in the past two weeks is that democratically elected governments can make courageous decisions. Decisions that put people and safety first.

Decisions that put fiscal and monetary policy tradition to one side, to make sure we look after the most affected and vulnerable. Decisions which are made at a scale and pace beyond that needed to tackle even colossal issues such as climate change. Decisions which show that the dollar and GDP metrics are not always king.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will come to learn more about how our national economy works, and where and why it can fail. About which parts of our regional economy are most important. We will have cause to reflect on globalisation. We should think hard about social and economic resilience, and what that means and requires for the future, both regionally and nationally.


We will come to learn more about our relationship with nature. About how intimately connected we are with the environment and dependant on its health to survive. We can learn about what really makes society tick. Most important perhaps, we can draw on what we learn to plan for and design what we want to see in the post Covid-19 world, and for the generations whose future is in our hands as community leaders.

To take but one example, while being in lockdown, we continue at the council to work and plan for our transport future as a region. For the first time in decades we get to actually see how much travel is really essential.

On the other hand, what can we do at home instead? What or who really needs to be on the road? Do we need so many car parks chewing up valuable land that could be used to grow food? We have space to think about how well our cities are designed as places to live, work and play- to walk around, cycle and just "be" in.

I know my colleagues at the council are all thinking about this future too, as we ponder how to confront water security, drought, climate change, the scale of investment needed in our flood protection schemes, in replanting our eroding hill slopes, and about what the council can do to stimulate economic recovery when we get back to our desks.

At the end of the day it is up to all of us what good becomes of this. This time should not be wasted. We will of course emerge from this situation as surely as time marches ever forward. In the coming spring, once the Covid-19 wave has swept past us, we will have cause to reflect on how well and in what shape.

The lessons of this horrible situation are perhaps timely. Let's hold on to that thought, more firmly than the last pack of flour or toilet rolls.

* Martin Williams is a Hawke's Bay regional councillor