Today marks three weeks since the national lockdown was implemented by the Government, on Wednesday, March 25, to halt the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
The past 21 days have been particularly challenging for all of us, but it has also been a period for reflection, for re-evaluation and for trying to make sense of the ever-evolving situation in which we find ourselves.
Northland's business community, hit hard in areas like tourism, hospitality and construction for example, has been working around the clock to absorb the economic shock and adapt to the new conditions.
Here at Northland Inc, we have been working around the clock with them. Growth advisers on our business support helpline – 0800 525 001 – have fielded nearly 200 inquiries, across all sectors and from all areas of Tai Tokerau; their role is to provide information and support, as well as directing business owners to the relevant agencies that can best help them in each unique situation.
Our business community is making every effort to adapt and evolve, although of course at this point none of us can claim to know exactly what the future – the "new norm" or the "new playing field", as some have termed it – will look, or indeed, feel like. However, that must not preclude us from planning for it.
One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that collaboration will be key in our post-lockdown communities. To that end, Northland Inc is working in unison and in close contact with our fellow agencies and regional partners, so we can operate as a collective force.
Only by working together, pooling our resources and bringing our respective strengths to the table, can we overcome the knock-on effects of Covid-19, aid recovery and enable us to get back on our feet as swiftly as possible.
As the regional economic development agency, Northland Inc is motivated by its great responsibility to start planning now for the post-lockdown future, and we share with all of our partners – whether that is the Ministry of Social Development, the Northland Chamber of Commerce, Te Puni Kōkiri, the Provincial Growth Fund or the Regional Business Partner Network – one common purpose: the full recovery of our region.
An imminent government announcement, likely to determine whether national lockdown will be lifted on April 22 – as originally proposed – or whether it will be extended, makes the need to start planning for the future even more crucial.
We appear to be turning a corner in what the Prime Minister calls the "marathon" battle to eliminate Covid-19, but we will still need to make sacrifices, to be vigilant at all times, and to continue playing by the rules laid down by the Government.
We will come out of this and, when we do, we will need to be ready. We will have to be adaptable, to evolve, to reappraise, retrain and redevelop where necessary, to hold our nerve and stay positive; in that regard our trademark Northland resilience will continue to stand us in good stead.
We will also need to accumulate as much economic data as possible in the "new norm" – something Northland Inc is already doing with its business intelligence/information service – as this will undoubtedly play an essential role in our recovery. Information and data are crucial.
But how can each one of us help? What can we all do, as Northland residents, to support our economy and those operating within it?
Post-lockdown, we can all work together by focusing on thinking local: support our local retailers, local restaurants and cafes, local accommodation providers, local tourism outlets, local building and construction, local agriculture, horticulture and primary industries, local technology, local education, local marine and boat-building, local arts and creatives.
Given the impressive array of enterprise within Northland, the list is long and covers many more sectors than I can mention; suffice to say that local ventures and local endeavour must be at the forefront of our planning and thinking as we make the transition to our "new normal".
A wise man once said that economic development is all about wellbeing and being a good ancestor. They are important words. The planning we undertake now, and our response once we emerge from lockdown, will help to shape and define our region's future. In that regard, our region's people will be watching us, and we have to deliver, and to co-ordinate our efforts to achieve it.
Covid-19 has taught us that we cannot take anything for granted. It is never too early to start planning for the new future.
• Murray Reade is chief executive at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.