We are now two days into alert level 3 and exactly five weeks into lockdown. The transition from level 4 has undoubtedly provided us with a glimmer of hope, and a light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.
For many among our business community in Northland who can now get back to work, there will be relief that the end may be in sight – in particular for those involved in industries like manufacturing, forestry and construction, where building work recommences this week on the $30 million Hundertwasser Arts Centre in the Town Basin.
The fact retailers can start trading online under level 3 will also be encouraging, and a welcome sign that a more familiar environment is starting to come back within our grasp. Some of our favourite local cafes, for example, will reopen too, albeit with level 3 restrictions.
However, now more than ever at this time, we need to consider the common good; by that I mean we must continue to play by the rules and remember those Northland businesses that cannot return to work or move forward until we transition to level 2 or even level 1.
There are many sectors not deemed safe to operate until we move down through the levels. It is crucial, therefore, that we support those businesses through this fallow period and beyond.
To do that, we need to stay patient, be vigilant and, above all, continue to stick rigidly to the guidelines laid down by the Government. If we are to help those businesses across the line, we must ensure we progress down through the levels, and don't go back up again.
We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball for a minute, however tempting the opportunity may be, or allow complacency to creep in and undo all the hard work and sacrifices of the previous five weeks. It is important that we all understand what level 3 will mean for us, and our communities.
The future of many of those businesses will depend on it.
Collaboration is key in post-lockdown world
As Northlanders we will continue to rise to the challenge
We came into this crisis with our economy in a strong place – something that will undoubtedly stand us in good stead in the coming months – and we should not forget that a significant portion of that success was due to the tireless efforts and energy of hundreds of those businesses which remain deeply affected by pandemic conditions.
As the Prime Minister reminded us last week while announcing the transition to level 3, we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to overcoming Covid-19, and this is not the time to go backwards or relax our standards.
We are in it for the long haul and the worst thing that we could do at this point is to get too far ahead of ourselves. There is still much at stake and she highlighted the importance of getting this phase right if we are to proceed efficiently through the levels. In that, we all have a shared responsibility to give ourselves the best chance of recovery.
I know many of you are itching to get back to work, and to resume your interactions; I know, too, that cabin fever is a real thing, but so is the pain and upheaval that many of our regional businesses are experiencing, and right now we have to put their needs first. After all, the economy pivots upon the health and wellbeing of its people.
Of course, no one can predict with any certainty what the economic landscape will look like when we come out of this. What I can tell you, though, is that the future will revolve around innovation and collaboration, about thinking differently, about flexibility and how we adapt and respond to change; indeed, we're already seeing some positive signs of that.
So, yes, this is undoubtedly a time for hope, for encouragement. But it is a time, too, when we must continue to play by the rules, to stay regional, think local, to share the responsibility, and ensure that the light at the end of Covid-19 tunnel grows brighter with every passing day.
• Murray Reade is chief executive at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.