In business, as in life, it is often our challenges that define us. In the case of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we face a global challenge that stretches, with varying degrees of severity, from the upper reaches of the Northern Hemisphere right to those of us living and working here in Northland.
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Coronavirus is having a significant impact on our society and our economy, which could last for some months to come. It is therefore important to take any necessary measures we can to limit the impact of the virus.
It might be easy for some of us here in Tai Tokerau to feel geographically removed from the heart of the crisis; we watch from a distance as other far-flung countries are placed into lockdown while the virus continues to take its toll. Undoubtedly some of our business community is already affected.
The New Zealand Government is taking strong measures, including a raft of travel restrictions, to protect the country from the effects of the virus. Its pandemic plan covers six stages, including "Keep it Out, Stamp it Out, and Manage It".
However, at a local level, there are key watchwords for us, too, at this time. The first of those is preparation – controlling what we can control, based on the information available to us in advance.
This might mean additional hygiene protocols for local businesses, flexibility around working from home when possible, more use of video conferencing for meetings and taking extra care with regard to our interactions with each other.
An infectious disease professor from the University of London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine summed up in simple terms how we might best approach the challenge. Graham Medley suggested that, rather than fearing catching the virus, we should imagine we already have it and change our behaviour accordingly so we're not transmitting it.
"Don't think about changing your behaviour so you won't get it, think about changing your behaviour so you don't give it to somebody else," he advised.
While the health and wellbeing of our people will always be paramount, it is also a time to remain vigilant as to the ripple effect of the virus on our national and local economies.
Generally speaking, our nation is acting strongly to mitigate the effects of the virus; the Government is in a prime position to do so with a good surplus and low national debt. This means it can implement strong fiscal measures to support the economy, and we expect to play an active part in delivering this support within the region.
Another watchword for us, both nationally and locally: communication. It's more important than ever in these difficult times that we stay connected and seek help and information when we need it. It is also an opportunity to support those around us who are struggling to cope with the rapidly-changing operational conditions.
At Northland Inc, we are committed, as ever, to supporting, protecting and preserving our local economy and the vast range of commercial operations, both large and small, which have played their part in transforming our region into the thriving place it is today.
Our business and growth advisers are here to listen to your concerns and provide expert knowledge and support, in both good times and bad.
Following the Government's announcement yesterday, we are acting to implement a series of measures aimed at providing additional support to businesses affected by the ongoing challenge; more information about this will be made available as soon as possible.
Unity and resilience have long been hallmarks of our communities in Tai Tokerau and I have no doubt that, across our region and across all sectors, our people will work together to face the challenges ahead.
We cannot deny that we will feel the effects of the current drop in economic activity, with lower export earnings as goods and services, particularly our tourism industry and international education, are impacted.
As much as possible, we need to maintain momentum so, that when this challenge passes, we are well positioned to recover. Maintaining momentum means keep spending normally as individuals/households, keep staff employed and keep money circulating in our economy.
Northland has the resources at its disposal to ensure that our region will ultimately ride out the storm. The challenge will define the strengths we have within us and around us, both personally and professionally.
Murray Reade is CEO at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.