Another level of freedom is cause for celebration in Central Otago and Wanaka.
Life at Covid-19 Alert Level 1 began on Tuesday.
Essentially the move down in levels means contract tracing is all but gone and it is life as normal, with the exception of restrictions remaining at New Zealand’s borders. Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said Central Otago and wider New Zealand had ‘‘dodged a bullet’’ because the Government put the country into lockdown soon enough ‘‘and by and large we did what we were told’’.
At the start of lockdown, he was ‘‘losing sleep’’ over how many people in this region could be lost to the pandemic and he was ‘‘incredibly grateful’’ that the answer turned out to be zero.
There were big economic challenges ahead, but no country in the world was immune from that.
‘‘It’s my honest belief that we lucky enough to live in Central Otago are right now among those best poised to recover anywhere,’’ Mr Cadogan said.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said reaching Alert Level 1 was a ‘‘tremendous result’’, demonstrating how New Zealanders could come together to help each other in times of need.
‘‘However, there is still a long road to recovery ahead for our district, with the economic impacts set to be felt for quite some time to come.
‘‘But I am confident that we have enough ingenuity and resilience as a community to pull through,” he said.
Restrictions on large gatherings meant many events had been cancelled across the region, but now some organisers were raring to go.
One of the first large events would be Cromwell’s Light Up Winter. Just minutes after the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement on Monday, Cromwell & Districts Promotion Group community relationships manager Gretchen Nightingale confirmed Light Up Winter would be held on Saturday, July 18.
‘‘We are so excited to have the opportunity to bring the Cromwell community together after everything that happened in the past few months.”
“We know that everyone will welcome the chance to let their hair down with friends and family.”
More than 2000 people turned up for the event last year, and this year, as other events had been cancelled, they anticipated there might be even more who would be visiting.
‘‘Maybe some of our neighbours will come as well and celebrate with us.’’
Removing restrictions on large gatherings could help the return of weddings across the region.
Ian Kerrisk, the owner of Dunstan House boutique hotel and licensed cafe in Clyde, said they had been very lucky.
‘‘We have had great support from the public since we reopened after lockdown, and we are very grateful for that.’’
Being able to simplify processes, such asno longer requiring manual sign-ins, would give people a sense of normality, he said.
‘‘We’ve got people who want to hold functions, and we can start looking at that again, so it’s good.’’
Alexandra Blossom Festival event manager Martin McPherson said it was ‘‘full steam ahead’’ for the 64th Blossom Festival.
Planning was well under way, bands and other entertainment were booked and market stalls, food and beverage purveyors were all keen to be ‘‘back at it, come September’’.
‘‘The festival will be one of the first major events in the South Island and by the time we get through winter we will all be looking forward to a good party, come spring,’’ he said.
Maniototo Ice Rink and Luge manager Susie Farrell said organisers met this week to discuss the Naseby Ice Festival, which normally takes place at about the end of June and attracts hundreds of people to the town.
They had not completely confirmed it, but were making tentative plans to hold the festival this year, and their annual ice and luge camps would be going ahead during the holidays, she said.
New Zealand Mountain Film Festival director Mark Sedon said they were ‘‘stoked’’ the country was now at Level 1.
The festival would run from June 26 to 28 across five venues in Wanaka and Queenstown, with an online component as well.