Frustration mounts as South Island mayors demand answers from the Government

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Oct 19, 2021 |

South Island mayors say the Government is ignoring the South Island and they want more answers on COVID-19 Alert Levels.

During yesterday’s press conference, neither Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern nor Ashley Bloomfield spoke about the South Island or provided a plan to keep COVID-19 out.

Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith says “It feels like the South Island does not exist in the minds of our senior politicians.”

All mayors approached by Chris Lynch responded to questions about the current situation, except for Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel – who refused comment.

Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith said “today is day 348 since there was a case of community transmission in the South Island and yet we remain in level two.”

“The health response by itself in a situation like this is not credible and the Prime Minister should take advice from the communities, business, and health to ensure a balanced approach that does not cripple the economy any further than it has.”

“Covid writes its own rules and a pragmatic response, rather than a one size fits all is needed if we are to ensure that damage to business is minimised.”

Smith said “communities exist because there are jobs and a vibrant economy to enable the income to fund the extra things a good community brings to its people. Not the other way around.”

“As Mayor, I am dealing with families who have run a good sound business for decades and now stand to lose it all. The level of stress has reached breaking point for many people in our community.”

“Moral continues to weaken as event after event is cancelled. The breakdown of supply chains is now creating further business risks for our construction sector. Many in our community are saying the lockdown relates more to control of the people than Covid with the ability for New Zealanders to get together and discuss many of the current reform proposals reduced to a level where engagement is almost impossible” Smith said.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said the Government wasn’t doing enough to acknowledge the South Island.

“It feels like the South Island does not exist in the minds of our senior politicians. Drop the levels to one, place restrictions on inter-island travel and continue the drive to boost vaccine numbers. Be pragmatic and adapt when it’s required to ever-changing degrees of risk and keep away from one size fits all.” 

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown doesn’t think the South Island should be at Alert Level 2.

“A regional border should be in place for the South Island. Anyone coming in would need to be double vaccinated and have a negative covid test.”

He said the Government wasn’t doing enough to acknowledge the South Island. “Businesses are doing it hard especially tourism-related.” 

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen said “It does feel like we are the forgotten child.

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen wanted the Government to at least discuss the concept of a regional border.

“The government took an acceptable risk by moving Auckland down to Level 3 when they were still seeing a significant number of cases, yet it doesn’t want to make any similar accommodation for the South Island with no cases.” 

He said, “people are still concerned about COVID and are taking it seriously, but keeping at the higher level restrictions at a time when there have been no cases here is causing more complacency and less goodwill, which could make it harder to go up a level if it was needed.”

“The longer-term effects on business is a concern, although not as prominent as the issues in Auckland, some businesses are slowly going broke and the long term economic and social consequences are likely to play out for some time to come.” 

Bowen said “we haven’t seen much in the way of acknowledgment specifically for the South Island, we’ve just been lumped in as the ‘rest of New Zealand.’

“It does feel like we are the forgotten child.  Hopefully, on Friday we get a plan for all of New Zealand with a strategy that takes into account a variable range of scenarios based on vaccinations, Covid in communities, the capacity of healthcare and a strong economy.”

In a statement provided to Chris Lynch, a spokesperson for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said “the current Delta outbreak presents a very serious risk to New Zealand, which is why Alert Level 2 settings are in place for much of the country apart from Northland, Auckland and Waikato which are at Alert Level 3.”

“Public health risk assessment is the first and most important consideration guiding government decisions on alert levels. Other factors include a range of factors such as case numbers, the number of active and uncontained clusters, cases where we cannot identify the source or cases who were not identified as contacts before they became cases” the spokesperson said.

“Considerations also include hospitalisation rates, vaccination and testing levels, wastewater results and geographical spread.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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