Melissa Lee: What will Christmas look like for Auckland?

As I write this column from my office in Parliament it is almost three months to the day since I was last here in our nation’s Capital working from the chambers in our House of Representatives following the Speaker’s ruling MPs from Alert Level 3 can return with conditions.

I can tell you life here in Wellington, the city of public servants has an air of normalcy, albeit with masks. Down here it is completely different to the experiences of the people of Auckland during the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. The Government in Wellington deciding our city’s fate have no idea what we Aucklanders are going through.

The rules we endure begin to feel farcical, we have no outdoor hospitality being allowed in Grey Lynn but fully booked restaurants bars on Courtney Place are serving those who make the decision to keep us Aucklanders locked down.

Auckland businesses have been struggling hard, particularly with the added burden of shipping delays hurting their ability to do contactless trade with clientele due to supply chain and goods availability. While we await the proper rollout of the vaccine certification system, (the My Vaccine Pass, that has just been released saw the My Covid Record website repeatedly crash) and, of course a future traffic light system not coming into place until at least the week before Christmas with heavy restrictions still remaining is ridiculous. It is cruel.

We are looking ahead to summer - one that is seeing many major festivals and community celebrations already cancelled even as far ahead as the start of March. Christmas in Auckland, let alone the rest of New Zealand, is going to be a tough one. It will be particularly bare bones for those families who are now out of work, under-employed or in significant debt because New Zealand has not gotten back in business - not just domestically, but allowing effective engagement with the rest of the world.

Indeed, for many families I am now hearing the Christmas gift their young professional aged children are seeking is a one way ticket overseas to parts of the world where life has gone back to normal. A new brain drain may be beginning because of the misery of the MIQ lottery and a general sense the opportunities to aspire and innovate are leaving our shores.

Whether it is the cancellation of community carols or the year plus postponement of major international acts coming to New Zealand, it is clear to me that the government has been doing everything possible to cancel summer for Auckland. As I think about our businesses still unable to trade effectively

around and across our region from Ponsonby to Puhoi I can see so clearly that we need a Royal Commission into the Government’s lack of preparation for Delta.

It has been an absolute shambles trying to determine the future of our city and nation with ministers, the people in charge of the situation, arguing in public whether we Aucklanders are being given a state sanctioned allocated time to leave the city during the holiday period. At least we may now have a bit of clarity looking ahead to summer and can hopefully be prepared and even see loved ones across New Zealand.

I am privileged to be able to advocate for you again from the Capital. It is an honour as a List MP based in Auckland to be here again championing your storefronts, your families uncertain about your child’s education, and the many other situations Covid-19 and the Government have brought about.

Take care, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and best wishes for a better 2022. (MELISSA LEE MP)


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Published 3 December 2021