The end of Covid-19 alert level 4 has been marked by an increase in traffic, reopening of some businesses and relaxation of travel restrictions within Northland.
The Government is cautioning, however, that the move to level 3 after an unprecedented 33-day lockdown is not a signal that life can now return to normal.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has likened level 3 to a ''waiting room'' with some workers allowed to pick up their tools but people's social lives remaining on hold.
Isolation ''bubbles'' are allowed to expand slightly, non-powered water sports can resume, schools have reopened for children whose parents must go back to work and restaurants can sell takeaways under strict conditions.
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Advocate staff hit the roads early yesterday to see what had changed and what people were most looking forward to. It seemed takeaways and water sports were high on Northlanders' wishlists.
Traffic on roads leading into Whangārei was noticeably busier as businesses got back to work in a new environment, and delivery trucks were doing the rounds of CBD eateries gearing up to offer contactless service.
Those business owners included David Hall, of the Baker's Crust on Port Rd, who had built a door with a "Pie Hole" to serve customers from while complying with level 3 regulations.
A baker had been in about 5am to cook pies, fresh bread and doughnuts and about 10 online orders had been placed yesterday morning. Hall hoped that number would grow once word spread.
He was glad to be open.
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"There have been reduced outgoings but some continuous ones with no income. The Government has been good with subsidies and that's helped. Everyone is in the same boat," Hall said.
Waka paddling is back on the agenda under level 3, albeit with restrictions such as no team training.
One of the first to hit the water on Whangārei's Hatea River was Parihaka Waka Ama club member Darren Collins.
The experienced paddler waited until daylight then enjoyed a 5km return paddle from Kissing Pt to the Town Basin.
"I've been able to handle everything else, working from home is sweet, but not paddling — that's been tough," Collins said.
It appeared golfers were also getting their fix at the Northland Golf Club at Denby in Tikipunga, with the first player out on the course at 7am. About 33 players had booked with more were expected to turn up.
Club pro Matthew Davis said the club was adhering to Covid-19 guidelines sent out by Golf NZ.
However, it was around lunchtime that Whangārei residents really showed what they'd been missing.
Long queues formed and road cones were put out at McDonald's and KFC, both on Bank St, as people tested their new freedom by getting their hands on some fast food.
Wiremu Whare and Stephanie Hardy, from Kaikohe, said they'd been in Whangārei for a few days waiting for KFC to open. While Hardy had been "cooking up a storm" at home during lockdown, now it was time for her favourite takeaway chicken.
About 35 cars queued at KFC around noon while 40 waited at McDonald's.
Builder Marlon Larsen reckoned two triple cheese burgers had his name on them, while his mate Ben Galbraith said a Big Mac Hunger Buster would be his pick.
"It hasn't been all bad though. I learnt how to cook a roast. I was pretty bad before lockdown when it came to cooking."
Meanwhile, in Kerikeri, there was a steady hum of traffic as building sites and some businesses reopened.
The busiest places at 8am yesterday were the McDonald's drive-through and automotive store Repco, where home mechanics were lined up for parts they needed to finish repair jobs.
Awhina Brown, of Kawakawa, and whānau were among those waiting for a McDonald's breakfast.
''I've been looking forward to this the whole time, since the doors shut. It's just so convenient and so nice. And I can order in my pyjamas.''
Brown said the lockdown had been peaceful and a chance for the family to recoup. They were lucky because they lived on a farm with lots of space and fresh mushrooms and feijoas every day.
Lynley Reid, owner of all six McDonald's outlets in Northland, said business had been steady since yesterday's 5.15am reopening. That was earlier than advertised but staff were ready and cars were waiting. For now it was a drive-through only but she hoped takeouts would be possible under level 2.
All 40 Kerikeri staff, and all 280 across Northland, had been kept on during the lockdown thanks to the Government subsidy.
''Looking after our people was our number one aim. It's great to be able to reopen, but we feel so sorry for other business than can't.''
Staff at Repco were run off their feet taking online orders from the moment the store opened yesterday. Customers were not allowed inside so a gazebo had been set up at the door for collecting purchases. Inside the phone could be heard ringing incessantly.
Manager Andy Hamberger told customers staff were ''flat tack'' working through a backlog of orders.
''It's gone absolutely mad. The phone hasn't stopped,'' he said.
Among those waiting were Derek Mackay, who needed a new cambelt. His own business, Keri Tiles, was able to supply customers but only if they knew exactly what they wanted and could order online.
He said he was ''between a rock and hard place'' because business income had dried up but rates and insurance bills hadn't stopped.
Warehouse Stationery had also set up a stand outside for collecting online orders while Churchills Butchery reopened for in-store orders with a one-in, one-out policy, payment by paywave and queue markers 2m apart on the pavement.
Barrow Boys Coffee Company was due to reopen today after staff spent Tuesday getting their new systems ready.
Orders would be taken by text or the app Regulr with pick-ups from a bench outside the cafe.
Co-owner Miles Toto said the lockdown had given him more time with his children.
''Financially it's been a bit difficult but at least we don't have coronavirus. I'd rather be at home and poor than have someone's grandmother in hospital,'' he said.
Alert level 3*
At alert level 3 we have to stay in our bubbles.
Sticking to our bubbles in alert level 4 has helped us break the chain of transmission and get the number of new Covid-19 cases down to single figures.
But we have more to do.
Alert level 3 restrictions are a little more relaxed but still strict enough to make sure we stamp out Covid-19.
The bottom line is to keep your bubble small.
Can I extend my bubble?
You can slightly extend your household bubble, but keep it local, small and exclusive. For example, you could add close family/whānau members, a caregiver, or someone who needs care, or a couple or single person if they live alone.
What if someone from another household starts feeling unwell?
Anyone who feels unwell should immediately self-isolate from others in their extended bubble.
What is a shared bubble arrangement?
A shared bubble includes children in shared custody arrangements, who can move between households if in the same community. A shared bubble can work the same way in alert level 3 or 4.
How many people can I add to my current bubble?
You can add 1-2 people, for instance your elderly parent or parents who live in their bubble.
Can I extend my bubble to include all my grandparents?
No, if all your grandparents live in two or more bubbles at the moment. Yes, if all your grandparents live in one bubble at the moment. You can only add 1-2 people to your bubble and two individual bubbles can join together but not three or more bubbles.
Can I extend my bubble to include friends?
Yes, you can extend your bubble to include 1-2 friends who live together in one bubble. Make sure your bubble is only linking up with one other bubble.
Can I extend my bubble to two friends, who each live in separate houses?
No, you can only extend your bubble to include one other household.
Can my sibling and I both extend our bubbles to include our elderly parent?
No, just one sibling can extend a bubble to include your elderly parent. Two individual bubbles can join together but not three bubbles.
Can I expand my bubble to include my girlfriend, who lives in a different house?
Yes, if her household and your household are the only two joining together. And so long as her household has 1-2 people in it.
Can I expand my bubble to include my elderly aunt who lives in another town?
No, you can only extend your bubble to households in your local area. We're still keeping things local to limit travel.
I'm a hospital worker. Can I extend my bubble to my neighbour who has a chronic illness?
Vulnerable people, including those with chronic illnesses, need to be even more vigilant about protecting themselves from catching Covid-19. It might be better if your neighbour chooses to join another bubble.
Can I leave a bubble if I'm unsafe?
Yes. If the situation in your bubble is unsafe you can leave your bubble immediately, and seek help. If possible, ask a trusted neighbour or friend for help, then call Police or Women's Refuge.
Can I visit friends or family, or have visitors?
No. You should avoid contact with anyone outside your bubble, except if you need to go to work or school, or while accessing essential services. Don't invite or allow social visitors, such as friends, family and whānau, to enter your home.
* Information supplied by the Ministry of Health.