Time for Govt to support the people
The people of Central Otago fronted up to do what was right by New Zealand and with Covid Alert Levels 3 and 4 behind us, it is time the Government does the same.
It was heartening to see communities across the Waitaki electorate pull together during the past three weeks.
Essential workers have got on with their jobs hundreds of healthcare workers carrying out Covid tests and administering vaccinations, supermarket workers or those in the agricultural and horticultural sectors or anyone in between, I thank you for your dedication.
Our region, like many others, has been quick to answer the Government’s call when the health of the nation is at stake.
What is clear is that the Labour-Greens coalition has not matched our efforts.
The Government made little use of the 18 months it had to prepare for the possibility of another community outbreak.
Our managed isolation and quarantine system was not up to scratch, our vaccination rollout was slow and our hospitals were short-staffed and ill-equipped, a factor directly linked to New Zealand’s border policies.
In Central Otago, the prospect of immigration leaving New Zealand vulnerable adds insult to injury.
A shortage of workers across many sectors has been hugely costly in the district since Covid arrived here.
For the immigration policies that led to those shortages to also leave us ill-prepared for another Covid outbreak is a case of the Government continuing its mistakes.
Among those currently shut out of New Zealand are more than 2200 nurses and 650 doctors who have submitted expressions of interest for residency under the skilled migrant category visa.
We were already desperately short of health professionals before lockdown; then processing of visa applications was immediately frozen when those people were most needed.
As we move out of Levels 3 and 4, Central Otago is facing the prospect of a third slap in the face.
Horticultural and wine operators, farmers and tourism businesses were all put under extreme stress by New Zealand’s closed border policies during last year’s summer period.
Twelve months later, with spring here and summer just around the corner, the same businesses are facing the same mass labour challenges.
Caught out before the Delta outbreak by focusing on big picture projects like amalgamating water services and redesigning a health system without addressing the need to expand services and staffing, Labour and Greens ministers must refocus and will be getting more than a gentle nudge from my office.