OPINION:

The debate rages on. Every day the media swamps us with stats about Covid: who’s infected, how they got infected, and to which hospital they’ve been admitted.

Meantime, the real victims of this lockdown, the “collateral damage” as the Pentagon is inclined to describe it, is Auckland hospitality and small businesses such as the beauty and hairdressing sectors. They’re about to draw their last breath unless, metaphorically speaking, the authorities urgently get a drip in their arm and get them on the resuscitator.

Hospitality in Auckland’s CBD has historically used the Melbourne Cup to kickstart Christmas/summer trading, and the cash flow injection from that one event sets the sector up for the season ahead.

This year, Auckland hospo was a late withdrawal from the Cup, scratched before the event was run, retired lame, broken down, all but euthanised, all because the Government kept them locked up in their box.

However, we have hope, according to all the stats and data available from credible sources like the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency ( WOCA ). The current vaccination rates mean we’re going to hit the three relevant Auckland DHB 90 per cent vaccination targets sometime between November 28 and December 3.

On that basis, the CBD and hospo sector absolutely must recommence trading on Wednesday, December 1.

If the sector is not then reignited, many will never get to reopen.

Suppliers are still owed money from pre-lockdown and have no appetite for extending more credit or changing terms to an industry clearly on its deathbed.

The industry needs cash from customers just as a patient in critical care needs a blood transfusion.

Hospitality makes the heart of any city beat. Imagine an Auckland without K Road, Ponsonby, Britomart or the Viaduct. It doesn’t bear thinking about – the city would have no soul ( pun intended).

The local authorities, the council, the police, and most importantly the Government, must agree to collaborate to make it possible for this city to reopen on December 1, regardless of whether we’re on 89.2 per cent vaccinated, or 90.1 per cent.

We’ve suffered enough in Auckland. Too much collateral damage has been inflicted already. The suicides, domestic violence, kids going hungry, mortgagee sales threatened, rent unpaid, creditors knocking on doors, surgeries and procedures delayed … it has to end. It’s eating this city and the hospo sector up, like the insidious creep of a metastasizing tumour.

We’re going to learn to live with Covid, we have to, just as the remainder of the world has. Covid must no longer dictate the way we live our lives.

We have the ability, the capacity, and the will. We don’t need a nanny-state dictatorial Government wiping our snotty nose for us and confining us to barracks any longer. What we need is leadership, strong leaders who’re bold, those who’re prepared to take charge and, by example, empower this city to be its awesome self again.

I’m calling on all small businesses in this city, from the barber to the tattoo shop, the pub to the bowling club, hairdressers to beauty care: let’s make a date, let’s hold hands and draw strength from each other. Let’s put a circle around Wednesday, December 1 in the calendar, and let’s make Auckland fun again.

This is not about civil disobedience, this is about the healthy and the vaccinated saying “enough is enough”, we’re drawing a line in the sand, we want our lives back regardless of whether the unsympathetic Government has the traffic light on orange, green, or anything in between.

Nor are we being held to ransom by the non-compliant hardcore unvaccinated any longer.

To the corporates out there, you can help too.

Do us a favour, book a Christmas function today because hospo needs you now, like never before (not at HQ, we’re fine thanks, but we’d love you to support the hospo “little battlers”). That wee Vietnamese noodle shop down the road, go make his day and tell him if he opens December 1 you’ll bring your staff in for a feed and a beer, give him some hope, because if you don’t there’s a very good chance he’ll be gone come January.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see a campaign launched here in the Herald, nominally titled “Hope For Auckland … let’s make a date”.

Get involved, do your bit, let’s show the Government that we’ll bend no longer, it’s time to be bold, be fearless, reclaim your city Aucklanders.

Let’s make a date – December 1. And don’t forget, get yourself a haircut first.

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