Thanks to the hard work of everyone in Whangārei over the past month, together we've kept Covid at bay and we've reached level 2.
It's been great catching up with friends and family, visiting favourite cafés and (in my case) getting a (very) long-overdue haircut, but with Delta we cannot afford to let our guard down. So level 2 is now level 2, Delta-style. Masks, smaller gatherings and staying local are all now necessary.
As we've seen, the Delta variant is much more easily spread. While Auckland is still producing unexpected cases there is the risk of a further outbreak, and that means them staying in lockdown and strictly limiting travel through Auckland to other parts of New Zealand.
The Government knows Auckland's lockdown affects Northland more than areas further south. We have relaxed the criteria to allow some non-emergency trips through Auckland by road or air, but we're asking travellers to test first if possible and workers crossing the border regularly to take weekly tests.
The risk of Delta hitching a ride in an urgent unplanned pit stop or a breakdown is too great to ease off further, so we're asking for your continuing patience and teamwork.
Meanwhile, while Auckland is at level 3 or 4, wage subsidies remain available for Whangārei businesses impacted by the knock-on effect of their lockdown. This Friday we re-open the resurgence support payment, to support affected businesses with fixed costs like rent.
It's hard on those hoping level 2 would mean visiting family or perhaps snowy southern holidays. Air New Zealand advises flights from Whangārei without an Auckland stopover aren't possible because planes can't refuel in Whangārei, but there is a temporary Kerikeri-Wellington service.
However, consider a staycation and support our local tourism and hospitality ventures which are struggling without southern visitors. Adventurers could try the Adventure Forest zip lines, giant scooters at Heads Up, a day at the Poor Knights with Dive Tutukaka, a spectacular hike on Bream Head, go horse trekking at Sandy's or Waipū, or visit Abbey Caves.
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If adrenaline isn't your cup of tea, visit the kiwi at Kiwi North, peek into Whangārei Art Museum, quirky Clapham Clocks or the revamped Waipū Museum, or wander on any of our incredible – and currently empty – beaches, followed by a great meal in one of our wonderful cafes or restaurants.
Find out why tourists love the North. A staycation is another way to support each other in tough times.
We also help each other by getting vaccinated, guarding against further lockdowns and protecting those who can't be vaccinated. Per capita, our vaccination rates are greater than countries like the UK, the US, Australia and Canada managed at the peak of their roll-outs, with 11,641 doses in Northland last week and 4,100,657 across the country.
This week there are walk-in clinics in Tiki on Wednesday September 15 from 12pm–6pm, and Mangawhai on Thurs/Fri from 10am–3pm. Otaika Pharmacy is starting drop-ins while Ngati Hine Health and the Ōtangarei Trust continues doing great work.
Thank you to the medical teams putting in long hours, to everyone who got themselves protected, to the police keeping our southern border tight. Together, we've got this far.
E noho haumaru tonu: Stay safe. E noho kaha tonu: Stay strong. E noho rohe tonu: Stay local.
• Emily Henderson is the electorate MP for Whangārei. She can be contacted at Emily.HendersonMP@parliament.govt.nz