by Chris Tobin
The country’s move to Alert Level 1 and the resultant return of human touch – hugging, shaking hands – as well as the boost to beleaguered businesses has been welcomed in South Canterbury.
“There will be a sense of relief, and especially for those in business,” Timaru Christian Ministers Association chairman and Gleniti Baptist Church pastor Mark Pavelka said.
“And there have been good things that have come out of the lockdown.
“We’ve all rediscovered what is important and doing things as families.
“There will be challenges to come but going forward there have been lessons learned, like not being swamped with ‘busyness’ and individuality.”
His church community had been “really joyful” to be able to come back together under Level 2.
“Now we’re a little freer [under Level 1] people will be able to hug each other, although a few people still want to maintain their distance.”
South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said Level 1 would be of huge benefit to the local economy.
“It’s a massive change and will give more confidence,” Mrs Smith said.
It was still too soon to gauge the full economic implications of the lockdown in the region, which were still being assessed by seasoned economists.
“But in Timaru district we’ve stood apart due to our diverse food economy. For some [businesses] who were finding it challenging pre-Covid, some decisions have been brought forward.”
Level 1 would be welcomed in the Mackenzie district, which had been severely hit with the loss of international tourism, she said. People would now await the time when the country’s borders could reopen.
Things had been tough for the hospitality sector in South Canterbury ever since January with fewer patrons coming through the doors, Hospitality New Zealand South Canterbury branch president and Zest restaurant owner Kristy Phillips said.
She was aware of two businesses that had shut their doors as a result of the lockdown.
“But I don’t want to put numbers on it – some choices had to be made and not all have come out the other side.
“There’s been a world of pain.”
However, since moving to Level 2 there had been amazing support from people choosing to spend their money locally, she said.
“Particularly from those people who have been able work in the lockdown period.
“I’ve been getting comment ‘they want you to be there for us’.”
After the lockdown and restrictions people were keen to meet for a meal or coffee for the sake of their health and mental wellbeing.
Level 1 will also hasten the return of sport around the region.
Sport Canterbury South Canterbury regional manager Shaun Campbell said many sports were geared up to resume on June 20. Some would move that date forward a week to this Saturday.
“A number of sports have been really supportive and done a lot of work to get ready to operate under Level 2. With Level 1 it means there will be a lot of processes in place.”
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the economic damage from Covid-19 had been colossal.
Moving to Level 1 was the best way to help start getting things back on track.
“The retail sector is under enormous pressure at the present time . . . ”
Social history curator Chris Rapley lifted Level 2 signs off the floor at South Canterbury Museum.