New Zealand needs to move to a 90 per cent vaccination rate to return to level 1 safely.
This is the message from the Government and comes from modelling various population vaccination rates. Dr Ashley Bloomfield made an important point: The 90 per cent goal was not "overall", but for each community group. There are still about 22,000 eligible people in Hawke's Bay yet to engage with the vaccination process.
Before I joined Napier City Council, I was seconded from my fire service role in August 2020 to co-ordinate the efforts across multiple government operations to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria, Australia.
Active cases in Victoria had peaked at just under 7000 and a state of emergency was declared. Hundreds of Victorians lost their lives. Melbourne went into lockdown for 111 days, enforcing home confinement, travel restrictions, home schooling and closing businesses.
I had the opportunity to work with the most dedicated people across the health and public sectors, along with outstanding community leaders. The professional challenge was immense at a time when everyone was personally affected.
This experience transformed my thinking on process, collaboration and community resilience. It also showed me what is possible when communities band together. We did not have a vaccine then, we do now.
Fast forward to today and Hawke's Bay has some of the highest number of essential workers in the country.
During both lockdowns, some staff from the council were able to continue with their work by logging in remotely from home. However, many of our people were required to break their bubbles and work in the community and with each other.
Water services staff were working to ensure our wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems continued to operate smoothly. Staff from across the business were seconded to the Group Emergency Co-ordination Centre in Hastings to co-ordinate the Covid-19 response. Our aquarium and animal control staff formed work bubbles to continue looking after the animals in their care.
There are plenty of other examples of staff needing to be out and about caring for our city and its people.
Like many other essential workers in Hawke's Bay, all these people were to some extent risking their health and that of their whānau to serve their community. Now that vaccinations are readily available for everyone 12 and up, this risk is slowly beginning to diminish.
As a council, Napier's social and economic prosperity is one of our key accountabilities. Everything we do links back to four local government "wellbeings": economic, social, cultural and environmental. Without a highly vaccinated population, our economic and social wellbeing remain in jeopardy.
We have staff working across all areas of our organisation who focus on various aspects of Napier's social and economic prosperity, and vaccination is now a key parameter to success.
Our economic development manager, Bill Roberts, is focused on achieving great economic outcomes for Napier.
Bill works with businesses large and small, to be the face of council to help with their compliance needs. He also works at a more strategic level to encourage organisations to relocate to Hawke's Bay, creating new employment opportunities for our people. If our region has low vaccination rates, our businesses won't be free to thrive in an open and unrestricted environment.
Let's be a community that supports employment and our economy.
We have some iconic events in Hawke's Bay that give a huge boost to our economy and make our region a great place to live. Council events manager Kevin Murphy has been instrumental in attracting new and high-profile events to Napier and Hawke's Bay.
Events such as Nitro Circus and the Hawke's Bay Marathon have contributed to our region's economy and put us on the map as viable destinations for major events. Napier City Council supports about 40 Hawke's Bay-hosted events in various ways.
Let us not again find ourselves in a situation where another lockdown means economic heartache for Hawke's Bay's many events. Let's support our events scene by getting vaccinated.
Our community services team has a role to play to protect our vulnerable communities. We provide low-cost social housing and help to connect vulnerable people, such as Napier's homeless, to many different social services. Providing these services is more challenging in lockdown situations.
We can all help to protect those more vulnerable than us by getting vaccinated against Covid-19. Let's be a community that thinks of others.
As a council, we have an obligation to help protect our community and support the Government's vaccination goals. Like many of our public service leaders across the Bay, I am working hard to support our vaccination targets.
That's why I am strongly encouraging council staff and their whānau to get a vaccine, and I strongly urge every eligible person in Hawke's Bay to do so too.
I love being part of this awesome region and community: our beautiful place, our businesses, our vibrant events scene and our close sense of connection to each other. I feel responsible for ensuring I do my bit to protect others and their livelihoods.
When we are vaccinated, we reduce the chances of ongoing lockdowns, help to keep our essential workers safe and enable us to fully enjoy the Bay's lifestyle.
You can play your part by going to bookmyvaccine.covid19.health.nz. If you're not sure, you can talk through your concerns and/or ask any questions. Alternatively, if you're ready, you can roll up your sleeves for Hawke's Bay.
Dr Steph Rotarangi is CEO of Napier City Council