A new normal for New Zealand: Going forward – into the past

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With the announcement about levels and lockdowns, in the scrambling days before Alert Level 4 kicked in – the panic-buying, the rush to get home or combine households – it seemed like a crazy dream.

Then we woke up to quiet on that Thursday morning – no rush-hour roar, train rumble or fire sirens – just birds!

We quickly recognised good things happening that brought back a lost age. Back in the day, nothing opened on the weekend and towns were deserted. People walked, cycled and used public transport more. We knew our neighbours, grew vegetables and cooked our meals – at home.

Many younger people appreciated the lack of stress – a state they hadn’t experienced before. After lockdown maybe we should move forward – into the past.

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Fewer cars

Lockdown has seen the cleanest air over our cities in decades. Let’s keep walking and cycling, getting out in family groups, greeting neighbours on the way and taking some fresh air and exercise. If you need to go out, stop and think – can you get there on public transport? With more people using busses and trains, walking and cycling, services will improve, the roads will be safer and the air will stay cleaner.

Getting involved

One aspect of lockdown was two-sided: The urgent calls for help from some bubbles, and community response – food parcels, phone calls, and front-line essential services in homes. Charities and community groups couldn’t have coped without an influx of volunteers keen to help their neighbours. The distress won’t go away soon, and getting involved in your local community is more important than ever.

Knowing your neighbours

One chronic symptom of life pre-COVID-19 was people not knowing their neighbours. It was a social disconnect that intensified loneliness and fostered suspicion and distrust. Lockdown changed that – many more people know their neighbours and have reconnected. If we know who lives next door, when one has trouble there’s always someone nearby to help. Similarly, online neighbourhood communities have been essential for the mental health of many people, and that should continue too. Keeping those connections post-COVID-19 will improve our poor mental health stats, and promote kindness and caring – two qualities we were in danger of losing.

Shopping online and locally

It was convenient shopping online during lockdown, and that doesn’t have to change. The more people do it, the fewer cars on the road. The only proviso is to shop local. Those stores are also your neighbours, and they depend on you for their survival as businesses.

Building a better future

It’s been a tough road for a lot of people – failed businesses, redundancies and unemployment are ongoing. But if we can appreciate the echoes from the past – walking, talking to neighbours, shopping locally, getting involved – and bring them into our new future, the team of five million will be better off. It’s about putting kindness and generosity in everything we say and do, every day.