The jungle out there


    I spent last weekend wrestling with an eight-foot tree root. 

    By dark on the first day, it had become obvious that it was a scion of a macadamia tree stump still three feet away from the laboriously dug trench in which the sinuous root lurked. It looked remarkably like the horrible outback snake one never wanted to meet and implements by then included a Japanese hand-grubber (my new best gardening friend), a mallet, several larger grubbers and loppers, the spade, a multitool and lead, hand saws, the weedeater and various bits of protective gear. 

    Invigorated by the challenge and having slept on the problem, I was out there next morning in the light of battle. And it was swiftly won when I collected a metal fence post from the garage and levered my opponent out of the subsoil. By lunchtime the neglected corner had, rather to its own surprise, become a new and promising vegetable garden. Warm, sunny, friable and with charming and unexpected views. I’m planning to relocate a garden chair there.

    In the meantime, of course, I had missed all the mayhem that marked the last days of our hitherto remarkably placid (if fraying) Covid elimination strategy:  Brian Tamaki (in designer jeans) at the city’s cenotaph calling down the wrath of Jove – somewhat slanderously – on the director general of health to loud approval from a sizeable crowd defending personal freedom; gang members ruthlessly ignoring the rules for a tangi and then the gathering storm of the Pandora data revelations and the part we still play in the pernicious offshore money trails which have been bankrupting the planet for years. 

    And then came Monday which Aucklanders may remember forever, like the Kennedy shooting or 9/11. A step change in life as we knew it, and too soon for many of us. As the putative economic “powerhouse”, we were taking one for the team and it’s easy to feel that just got a whole lot less safe.

    It’s been really apparent since the Government’s announcement of a “three-step” plan for lowering level 3 restrictions in Auckland that it hasn’t been thought through particularly well, notably as it applied to Waiheke, Great Barrier and coastal communities rightly afraid of the prospect of a city of 1.4 million descending en masse and en fete. 

    On Tuesday night we – and the ferry companies – were still seeking clarity on whether the new level 3 provisions allowing Aucklanders to travel around the region to visit the beach included the daytime use of ferries to Waiheke. 

    By Wednesday morning we were told that, yes the parks, playgrounds and public toilets would be open, but no, Auckland would not be able to leap on the ferries and visit our beaches. Which is a good thing. On a very prosaic level we are still not set up to accept visitors, let alone keep people socially distanced faced with overwhelming ferry queues. 

    Anecdotal evidence (and social media) shows people champing at the bit to come to their holiday homes and there’s certainly evidence that both rentals and holiday homes have been occupied over the past week. In this climate, the Waiheke local board’s resolution calling for Waiheke to exist in a separate alert zone to the rest of Auckland region highlights how important it is to have more nuanced decision-making.  

    Of course the board’s resolution will come under fire from the visitor sector, which wants Aucklanders to feel comfortable coming here while it’s still safe. However, even as they rethink their position, the board’s strong resolution would give a mechanism that could feasibly stop non-essential travel as required. In offering a political olive branch to those wanting eased restrictions, the government failed to grasp the consequences of lumping the whole Auckland region into one potentially Covid-drenched melting pot. I would presume Piha or Leigh residents feel much the same way.

    Fortunately, the prime minister herself knew and understood Waiheke pretty thoroughly during her years in Opposition and had said during media questioning that further work was being done on the issue. By Wednesday morning, Clause 21 related to non-essential travel had been amended to specifically exclude travel to either Waiheke or Aotea Great Barrier islands by anyone whose home or place of residence is not on that island. 

    There are plenty of people willing to call us entitled and separatists because of the board’s call for an independent setting of levels, but there have also been many Waiheke residents scared stiff – with reason – that the alternative would be a free-for-all for visitors with advanced cabin-fever heading here at what is still a level 3 stage of lockdown. 

    I think we can be forgiven for being cautious and for wanting to find better ways after this time, not worse. • Liz Waters

    Subscribe and read Gulf News and Waiheke Weekender Online