Covid-19 alert levels 4, 3 and 2 have come and gone, but as we start to settle into what is anticipated to be a lengthy period in level 1, what does this mean for our community?
For many people, life will have already returned to normal with no restrictions on movements or gatherings, no social distancing rules and improved habits around personal hygiene. Again, for many people, incomes have not been affected and they are busy making up for lost work time during the Covid-19 restrictions.
But for others, work hours have been cut back and in some cases jobs lost altogether. It is clear that many businesses/employers have used the Covid-19 period as a time to rethink their business strategies and their future. For some, this reset has caused pain that will be with us for a long time to come.
The tourism, accommodation and hospitality sectors have been particularly hard hit and will continue to be at the forefront of this pain, due primarily to the fact New Zealand's borders remain closed, with no substantive loosening likely in the near future.
It is the classic between a rock and a hard place option. We want the tourists and the dollars they bring, but we don't want the potential risk of them bringing Covid-19 as well.
The reopening of the borders is the largest immediate challenge we face, it's the economic stimulus we need, but how do we do this safely?
In the context of economic recovery, the Taranaki region is somewhat lucky because we don't have the level of reliance on overseas visitors to support out visitor industry compared to elsewhere in the country.
Around 75 per cent of our visitors are Kiwis and we need to encourage more of them to come to the region.
Our focus as a council has been to maximise the opportunities offered by the Government to stimulate the economy and already we have had some success.
The funding of around $23 million already allocated for the SH43 improvements has had the work programme bought forward and substantial additional funding for safety improvements on other roads has been approved.
Two of our "shovel ready" projects applied for have made the cut for the further consideration and we are hopeful that funding will be made available soon so work can begin.
Next week we will be considering opportunities to assist people into training courses or back into work, utilising the funding available from the Government's recovery initiatives.
Some people have already taken the opportunity and enrolled in work/training schemes, but we need to ramp this up to ensure that we get support to as many people as possible.
Some early but promising signs of economic recovery are being seen in the retail sector.
Over the past three weeks the retail spend in the region has exceeded the amount spent in the equivalent week last year, but is it a blip or a trend?
Is it also too early to talk about trends in the local housing market where the current market has been very buoyant and prices are holding up well? In another indicator, post Covid lockdown, building consent activity has been very busy, suggesting there is still plenty of confidence in this sector.
Overall, there is light at the end of the tunnel and as a region we are better positioned than many others trying to limit the harm caused by Covid-19 as we start recovering from this pandemic.
Let's be positive.