The professional medical advice offered to Government by so many with so much knowledge in the disparate disciplines of medical science has - in NZ at least - allowed us all a large measure of confidence that we will win the war against covid 19. Credit is due to the judgment exercised by the Prime Minister who sought out, listened and acted upon sound advice to ensure that life can return to a degree of normality before too much longer.
There is a lesson here.
What is clearly an increasing focus of so many after being in lockdown is the vital question our leaders need to answer - where to from here? Whether we realize it or not, WW III is being fought against a common enemy that may well mutate and remain with us. It is virus vs humanity – as it has always been throughout history. One way or another, an ongoing international collective response is vital. Our leaders therefore need to learn to trust one another least they imperil the lives of so many thousands more. That is going to be difficult as most have not yet leaned to trust their own populations.
It is obvious that biosecurity, its knowledge and application is something best shared by all countries -rich and poor as infection travels 1st class and for free. There surely needs to be priority given to the development of self- testing kits as the first essential defensive weapon in this new biological warfare.
Most accept that the world as we knew it has changed, possibly forever. The economic management of our country, post covid 19 is the new imperative.
Building a new resilience into our own economy is surely the single most important aspect and duty of central and local governance. The distraction of the general election in six months’ time will add little to our essential economic recovery – so what do we do?
Between the WW1 years of 1915 and 1919, NZ was governed by a “Grand Coalition”. During that world conflict, a war cabinet was appointed made up of the best talent in Parliament. Similarly, during the great depression of 1931 to 1935, a cabinet was formed from the most suitable politicians who were deemed to be the best and most experienced minds available to lead our country. Fast forward to 2020.
Recent events highlighted that self-destruction of Cabinet Ministers is ongoing. Health Minister David Clark remaining (for now) in cabinet shows up the lack of capacity within the current Government. Dr Clark can only tread water in a knee-deep pool as public confidence in him erodes. He obviously caught the same virus as Gerry Brownlee ingested some years ago who also believed the rules don’t apply to him as he breached airport security. His credibility ended as did (effectively) his political career.
If ever there was a time for the PM and the leader of the opposition to put their country ahead of personal aspirations within politics - it is now.
Most of us would applaud such selfless action as that of statesmen. This is a particular condition we in NZ rarely if ever have seen within the context of politics. The population also recognize that politicians do not possess a singular mortgage over that rarest of all commodities – wisdom.
Ms Ardern has undoubtedly shown judgment in her acceptance of advice offered to her by the wider medical community, but economic recovery cannot be determined by science.
There is little doubt that former PMs Helen Clark, John Key, Bill English would respond well to any request for assistance, but it is within the business community that the answers to recovery lie. Central and Local Government can assist the private sector to hasten, restore and revive economic wellbeing. Consider the outstanding performance by private and public enterprise in the coast road restoration from Christchurch to Kaikoura due to the RMA being suspended. The role of our authorities is to ensure confidence in our systems and to be fully responsive to the needs of those who seek to rebuild. Local Government especially has to be deconstructed. Currently they make their own rules, enforce them and then sit in judgment on their policies when such policies are challenged by Jo Citizen - because they don’t work.
Local Government policies around releasing land for housing over the past decade or so has been disastrous. The time has come for we the people to reclaim this country, to trust the people and to reward hard work, thrift and enterprise. This is not a time for Pollyanna type attitudes nor Green party fantasies. Any takers?
Gerry Eckhoff is a former councillor on the Otago Regional Council and MP.