When the first case of Covid-19 was announced in New Zealand, I don’t think anyone would have imagined we would be encountering an almost five-week lockdown – and that was only the beginning.
Now a month later we are in the process of moving back down to level three and while normality is still a long way away, we are so far winning the fight.
From the moment it was announced we were going to be entering Alert Level 4, my phone started ringing and the emails began to flood in.
What does this mean, what does it look like, how will we get through this, will my business survive, how do I get home, how do I pay my bills – the questions were endless.
And the truth is back then I don’t think anybody quite knew what this was going to look like.
In the two-weeks post lockdown, my offices and I dealt with more than 500 constituent queries, what I would normally receive in two months.
People rang, got in touch on social media, emailed and text, reaching out in whatever way they could to try and find some answers or to get some assistance.
One thing that was clear in all of the time during the lockdown was how much our region cared for one another and in particular our elderly.
The number of people who reached out worried about family members or friends living on their own was incredible.
It showed how we truly do have each other’s back and live in one of the most caring communities in the world.
There were also some hard parts of lockdown, in one case a Southland couple were stuck in South America on a cruise ship not sure if or how they were going to get home.
I had multiple messages from caring members of our community asking for my assistance to help get them back to New Zealand.
After many phone calls and emails we got the good news they were secured a flight and arrived back in the country the first weekend of lockdown.
The hardest part though has been hearing from those of us who have lost jobs, are struggling to make ends meet and just don’t know where to go.
Thankfully in most cases, I’ve been able to point them in the right direction.
Now we are on the up, as we prepare to move to level three we start to look forward.
More and more businesses in our community will return to work and our economy is beginning to fire up again.
We are also incredibly lucky here in Southland our region’s backbone is the primary sector.
Our unemployment rate is going to be lower than the national average and overall the country has seen how truly essential we are.
It’s going to be a long road back to normal but if we all work hard together, practice good hygiene and social distancing, alert level two is hopefully just around the corner.