When you are the Prime Minister or a Minister in the Government you receive advice from a range of officials, some of it excellent and some of it not so good. Your job as a Member of Parliament is to assess this advice to see whether the recommended course of action, policies or legislation is sensible and will achieve the desired result, without causing unintended and unwanted consequences. When looking at the detail you have to be careful not to lose sight of the big picture, or as the saying goes, you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of not seeing the wood for the trees.
I am hopeful that when the Prime Minister announces the Government’s decision on whether or not New Zealand can move from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1 this week, common sense will prevail. At the time of writing this column we had already had almost two weeks with no new cases of Covid-19 and, assuming nothing has changed by the time this goes to print, it seems nonsensical to keep imposing social distancing measures on businesses, when even the Prime Minister herself has been seen in photos out and about within close proximity of members of the public.
The Government needs to be making fair and reasonable decisions to help steer our communities out of the difficult conditions our businesses find themselves in but the decision-makers appear ignorant of the impact their directives are having on businesses and families.
The Trans-Tasman bubble needs to be made a reality before the July school holidays to give our South Island tourism businesses a chance of staying afloat. September will be well and truly too late for many.
The Government also needs to explain why special permission has been granted for the Avatar film crew to enter New Zealand but denied entry to fishing boats to allow engineering works to be done on them in Nelson, putting many local jobs at risk.
Until recently, everyone was under the impression that New Zealand’s borders were shut to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents. However, we have since found out that Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford has signed off on 28 applications based on economic grounds, representing 201 essential workers, after being granted special powers by Cabinet on 21 April 2020. In total the Government has granted 2,354 border exemptions.
The Government never publicised these border exemptions and this only came to light after the arrival of the film crew last weekend.
The Government needs to be upfront on what the criteria are as a “case-by-case” border exemption regime which lets some people in but refuses entry to the stranded partner of a pregnant New Zealand woman does not pass the fairness test.
This simply isn’t good enough and appears to be another case of this Government picking favourites. Ask anyone who became unemployed prior to March this year whether the special benefit for people who have lost their jobs since then is fair and you can likely guess their reply.