This week, two dozen yellow daffodils bloomed in a vase on my desk. It's hard not to smile around daffodils. They spring up to tell us it's soon time for the electric blankets to be switched off, the barbecue to be dusted off, and those neglected running shoes to be placed closer to the front door.
Their bright faces represent new life, hope, and resilience after a long, cold winter. But these daffodils are different. A florist handed them to me outside Parliament to bring awareness to the plight of flower growers under alert level 4 restrictions. Hundreds of
thousands of flowers are being dumped and composted in Auckland because they can't be sold under the rules.
Flower growers are the only primary sector group with perishable goods unable to operate under alert level 4. They're not "essential", which seems a little unfair when you can get chocolate croissants and ice cream delivered to your door - but those are the rules.
Flower growers are just one of many business groups that have been forced to shut or are operating under restricted conditions crying out for more support and asking for more certainty and logical rules for who can operate and at what alert levels.
We've heard from butchers frustrated that people can enter the dairy next door but can't buy their meat and pick it up in the same trip. Instead, people are being asked to drive further distances and mix with more people in supermarket lines.
It's a surprising rule when the Government opened an inquiry into the lack of competitors to big supermarkets in New Zealand.
We've also heard from cafe and restaurant owners wondering how their business can survive after last-minute changes to alert level 2 rules and maximum customer rules forced them to reconsider opening at all.
It's no good being able to open legally if you can't break even. If it's going to cost more than your takings to be open, you might as well stay closed.
The Government just doesn't seem to understand the pressure these businesses are under through no fault of their own.
The Government doesn't need to stay cash-flow positive. It can simply keep borrowing billions more. However, small business owners can't just keep borrowing more money.
They did it last lockdown. Many haven't started to be able to pay those bank loans back, and some have been told they're unable to apply for another loan.
We now have rules that allow you to send a case of wine to a special someone, even under alert level 4, but not a bunch of flowers. Not only are the rules unromantic, they're also illogical.
Both deliveries are equally likely to spread Covid in the community which, as the Prime Minister said this week, is not very likely at all. Transmission has mainly occurred within households and very little through the workplace.
There is a crucial difference between wine and flowers though. Good wine gets better with
age. Flowers only last for a season.
Covid is a very large and important threat, but it's not everything. Especially for those in small business, it's not even the most urgent concern to their wellbeing. That's being able to keep their livelihoods intact for their staff's jobs and their family's mortgage.
It's being able to pay the rent, rates and insurance.
The stress from the uncertainty of being able to pay bills takes its toll and the stories are devastating. Six months of events contracts being cancelled, needing to throw out thousands of dollars of stock, or feeling guilty for being unable to pay suppliers knowing it will have a flow-on effect.
We need the Government to show common sense. The rules for business should be changed to what can occur "safely" not bluntly applied to what is deemed "essential".
The Government knew about Delta for months before changing the rules for how businesses could operate at the last minute. We need more planning so we know what to expect before the next Covid variant hits our shores and so businesses can plan accordingly.
The dumped daffodils are a great symbol of why our Government needs a practical approach to balance Covid with all aspects of New Zealanders' wellbeing.
Businesses need to know what the future holds because hope and resilience can quickly end up withering on the compost heap.
• Brooke van Velden is the Act Party deputy leader.