We’re in the midst of what is an entirely unprecedented time in Central Hawke’s Bay, and the whole of New Zealand. Many of you while reading this letter will be hunkering down in your homes. Some of you will be in the company of your family. Some of you will be alone. Some of you will be out in the daily battle to manage water and feed to stock on your farms as drought continues its grip.
And some of you as our essential workers, are bravely continuing on, in a weird, and sometimes scary new-norm. Whether you are a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, care-worker, police officer, supermarket operator, a farmer, or on the production line at the meatworks, you guys are our new heroes and I thank you, and all of the others, who are keeping Central Hawke’s Bay afloat in our true time of crisis. You are the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday 23 March we heard a bold and brave announcement from our Prime Minister, for the protection of all of our people during the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are now a week into a national level 4 lockdown and State of Emergency. I continue to spend many hours working with Elected Members, Council Officers, regional Mayors, Civil Defence and the District Health Board via digital meetings and phone calls. The system is working as hard for you as it can and if you need us we are there for you. If you are unwell you will be looked after by our health system. If you need food you will get it. If you are lonely someone will talk to you.
Often though, in times of darkness, glimmers of light shine the brightest. Already, we’re seeing such an incredible amount of kindness, generosity and willingness to adapt throughout the community. There are teddy bears up in front windows. There are Facebook groups of volunteers ready to respond if needed. There are community online videos of support and inspiration for our essential workers. There are neighbourhood phone-trees in place. I’ve had countless calls from people who want to know what they can do to help. But right now, most simply put, my answer is – stay home and be kind.
The Prime Minister has told us that for at least four weeks, every New Zealander, aside from those who provide an essential service, must self isolate. This means staying home, and stopping all interactions with others outside of your household. I understand that this has been, and continues to be a huge ask, however it is a vital step in eradicating the virus that otherwise has the potential to kill thousands of Kiwis. By staying home for four weeks, you are quite literally saving lives. Please be kind. Reach out to your friends and your neighbours and assure them that they aren’t alone. In the last week or two you will have received a set of ‘community postcards’ from Council, encouraging you to introduce yourselves to those isolated around you, from afar. If you’re able to lend a helping hand to those who are living alone, or who might be unwell and therefore unable to leave the house for essential supplies, pop one of these cards into neighbouring letterboxes, offering to deliver groceries, or provide company by chatting over the phone. Civil Defence has provided guidance on how to do this safely. We might be physically separated from one another, but now more than ever we need each other to get through!
Be kind not only to others, but to yourself too. Try to stick to a routine and call or Facetime whānau to stay in touch. Get some fresh air and exercise. If you’re well you can take a walk or go for a bike ride – just make sure you keep a two metre distance from any person outside of your isolation circle all times. If you feel you aren’t coping, you can call or text 1737 for free, 24/7 to talk to a trained counsellor for support with anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling financial pressure due to COVID-19, please contact Work and Income who will be able to discuss your eligibility for support through the Government’s COVID-19 recovery package.
Right now, please be calm. Reach out to your friends and neighbours. Continue to wash your hands – we know that soap kills COVID-19. Most importantly, stay home, and look after one another.
Together we thrive. E ora ngātahi ana.
We’ve got this Central Hawke’s Bay!
Mayor Alex Walker
30 March 2020
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