Sue McCann photo Sophie Boladeras

The news that non-resident travel to Waiheke is getting the green light from Friday 3 December when Auckland moves to the traffic-light framework was music to the ears of some islanders but evoked fear for others.

Last week, before the announcement indicating when the island would reopen, the community came together at an extraordinary local board meeting to share opinions on the border.

At its peak, just shy of 120 people were at the Wednesday Skype session, which was held in response to an urgent request from Waiheke Island Tourism Inc (WITI) and three other island business organisations asking that the board advocate for the immediate removal of the health order barring non-resident travel to the island.

Approximately 20 people spoke during the public forum sharing differing thoughts and showing the depths of emotions held on either side of the debate.

WITI member and Eco Zip owner Gavin Oliver spoke near the start of the lengthy public forum and shared the results of a WITI-led survey of the business community.

Oliver said that, of the survey’s 78 respondents, 82 percent supported the immediate removal of the border restriction and 68 percent were either concerned or very concerned about the future of their business over the next six months.

After the meeting, Oliver said that although WITI was seeking an immediate border removal, the news that Waiheke’s border would lift on 3 December, when the region moves to the new traffic light framework, was still well-received.

“It’s good news. As of this week, it will be 14 weeks that we have been closed. Businesses can’t survive in this way, and at the meeting there was a great deal of honesty about how hard this has hit and sapped people’s mental strength.

“These are ordinary people pursuing their dreams who have been so badly affected. They have been overdue some good news, and the traffic light announcement was like a light at the end of the tunnel telling us that we will get the summer that we desperately need to get through the winter.

“We have something to plan for now, and this allows businesses to do something to proactively get ready and prepare.”

Restaurant owner Cat Vosper, who during the meeting described the mental stress and feelings of “hopelessness” many in her industry have suffered, is delighted to have a date for when Casita Miro will again open.

“All that most of us in hospitality have wanted for a long time is a date, particularly when it comes to difficulties around staff recruitment and training. So to get an idea of that has been enormously relieving.” • Sophie Boladeras

Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!

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