A Crux Post-Covid Xmas: Learning the lessons of 2020 [Crux, 18/12/20]
A Christmas Editorial: For most of us it’s been a tough year. But when it comes to engineering positive change, we have a lot to thank the Covid 19 pandemic for.
The tragedy of a soaring Covid death toll in the Northern Hemisphere is both sobering and shocking at the same time. To see the different national responses to Covid, and to see avoidable deaths result from the pandemic being turned into a political football has resulted in a double tragedy – a tragedy of public health and a tragedy of contemporary democracy.
In the fullness of time the second tragedy could turn out to be more serious than the first.
It’s not just in Trump’s America that we have seen public opinion rage against wearing masks, the loss of personal liberties due to lockdowns and even against whether the virus is “worse than the flu” or not.
Truth and science took a global back seat to politics, extremism, business interests and conspiracy theorists.
Locally we were not spared the ravages of Covid’s political and economic fallout, even though we have been spared the disease itself.
International tourism collapsed, domestic tourism boomed, the Government made some clumsy, expensive attempts to rescue big tourism operators, the wage subsidy stretched our national cash reserves – and yet the local economy did not collapse. It turned out that Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult’s claim that over 60% of Queenstown worked in tourism was not quite true. 7,000 migrant workers earning extremely low wages from tourism was closer to the truth.
Wanaka and Cromwell have emerged from 2020 relatively unscathed thanks to their resilience, strong sense of community and relatively well balanced local economies.
Queenstown restaurant owner Darren Lovell’s recent self-pitying opinion piece was near universally mocked for its whiny “please somebody do something” tone as hundreds of other local business owners, showing true Kiwi grit, got on with life and quickly adapted their businesses to the new reality.
The whole of New Zealand understands Queenstown’s plight- Kiwis are smart enough to wish for a new, smarter Queenstown, not a bounce back to the Old Queenstown that was often despised for what was seen as our superficial, greedy hunger for Overseas Tourism Dollars, seemingly at the expense of the environment, domestic tourists and our local self esteem.
Now it seems we have been forgiven by the rest of the country, but we are on probation. Covid was not our fault – but learning authentic and long lasting lessons from Covid will be the true test.
It’s the Kiwi way. We should stand on our own two feet, we adapt. We don’t whine and moan about circumstances beyond our control.
And that will be our salvation. Something to be truly thankful for this Christmas.
Community values will come out on top – every time. The “good old days” of three million tourists a year, a tone-deaf empire building airport corporation, a fiercely pro-growth Mayor and self-serving council management – all will be severely challenged by the new reality of 2021 and beyond.