As Northland looks to recover from our high level lockdown, many perspectives will require our attention such as health, economic, environment and social. At a health level we have tracked well with a low number of cases per capita supported by reasonable testing and contact tracing.
A number of experts have told the urgent Epidemic Response Committee to watch out for a second wave as alert levels relax and that we need up to 28 days (two infection cycles) of zero cases to be clear. Our health response needs to continue to build so we can quickly test and contract trace a second wave and any new cases. I agree with others: contact tracing is as effective as a vaccine.
The economic impact will be significant. Last week Northland led the regions in job seeker benefits at 10.3 per cent unemployment. The next closest was Bay of Plenty at 7.9 per cent.
We have heard 30 per cent of log industry-related jobs have already gone. Tourism was a leading revenue generator for us along with associated hospitality and accommodation. Staying and playing locally will help these industries but even so there will be damage. There are options.
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Unemployment and training are counter cyclic. When unemployment is low people get a job and training falls. When unemployment rises there are fewer jobs and training goes up. One option for those whose have lost jobs is to retrain or upskill. Before coronavirus we needed thousands of building and primary production apprentices and workers to name a few.
I believe the need for these skills is simply parked for a short period of time, but what a wonderful opportunity this could be to retrain or upskill and be in the sweet spot when that parked demand is released. We need to figure out how to support retraining of this type and how to maximise our polytechnic and local private training providers to assist with training. We also need to propose specific stimulus projects that with government support will get Northland moving, a narrative for another column.
Some have noticed changes for the better in our environment as we stayed at home and indoors. I think I have heard more bird noise in the walks I have done each day. There is an opportunity during rebuilding to weave appropriate environmental benefits into the health, economic and social objectives we need to achieve.
New projects can incorporate science-based environmental considerations that future-proof them into a foreseeable future.
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The social impact is significant. We have traded our civil liberties in the hope that as a collective we can circle the wagons and keep coronavirus out.
We have reduced our physical networks based not on age, values or preference, but on the distance a droplet of spit can be projected with a cough. We need to rebuild our social cohesion with each other and as communities.
Over lockdown I had a cousin who died. I need to say goodbye. I have a new 5-week-old granddaughter. I need to say hello. We have an opportunity to rebuild Northland as a strong region. We need to say yes.