Eighteen days ago, the Government wound down the measures rolled out to contain the spread of Covid-19 in an attempt to make them proportionate to the perceived risk of the virus.
Despite going into a third - albeit likely smaller- wave of infections, extraordinary powers were deemed no longer needed. What was once justified and served our country well has been removed. With these changes, the legal framework now more closely matches the risk.
The Government also lifted the Epidemic Notice in a move away from emergency arrangements to long-term management of the virus. Now, it has been decided, we can manage the virus with tools such as widened availability of antivirals, without having to resort to the most restrictive measures.
All that remains is the seven-day isolation period for infections and mask-wearing requirements in certain healthcare settings for the time being. Many of us now appreciate more the things we took for granted, such as a flight to see family or friends; breaking bread with a large group around the table; browsing shop shelves without contact tracing and masks.
These are simple freedoms to be enjoyed, but time might also present some opportunities to reset and do things differently. Why pick up where we left off when this can be our chance to change things up?
As we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic this nation has some talking to do.
Covid 19 has been a distraction from many of the plans we were making to develop the economy and build a wealthier and more equitable nation. Does our response to Covid offer a blueprint for tackling other big challenges we face? Or does it require a different approach?
During the pandemic response, some quick decisions were required, exemplified by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comment about going “hard and fast”. This is also an example of short-term fixes being needed that have longer-term impacts. New Zealand governments have for decades grappled with the need to get tangible results before the electoral cycle ends.
In local government, we have legislation committing territorial authorities to 10-year long-term plans. Could such a measure be palatable in central government; or do we need longer electoral cycles?
A new Herald poll shows the global cost-of-living crisis is by far the most important issue for New Zealanders right now – with 56 per cent ranking the issue the most important issue facing the country – well above climate change (12 per cent), crime (11 per cent), the Covid-19 pandemic (8 per cent) and social division (8 per cent).
By gender, higher proportions of women (65 per cent) said the cost of living was the most important issue facing the country than men (46 per cent).
At 3.3 per cent, unemployment is at its lowest since the 1980s. Economic growth for the past year of 1 per cent is comparatively low on past years but growth of 1.7 per cent in the last quarter shows promise.
So, where do we need to focus, to ensure we rebuild a better New Zealand?
The New New Zealand: Rebuilding Better is a major new series from the NZ Herald and NZME which seeks to answer these questions and help lay a pathway to a fairer and more prosperous Aotearoa.
The project will focus on a series of themes – starting with the economy before moving on to health, social cohesion, crime, national identity and more.
Along the way, we will look at these issues through the lenses of climate and equality to ensure plans are sustainable and support all Kiwis.
The project will include video, polls, podcasts, data analysis, interactive features and stories from across our network of publications and radio stations. Coverage will continue into 2023, leading into one of New Zealand’s most pivotal elections.
Among the contributors, Oxford scholar and policy advocate Max Harris will be providing his analysis and strategic thinking.
We also want to hear from you – we want to create a space for constructive debate and go beyond traditional political divides to find some common ground.
So, join us as we play our role in creating a New New Zealand by Rebuilding Better.
Covid showed us who we could be when we had to. Now we can choose to be who we want to be.