Like many of you I’ve found it incredibly challenging to see our local businesses go through so much hardship due to COVID-19 over the past two years and Omicron hasn’t helped. The Government has announced minimum wage increases in light of massive rising inflation and this will cause strain on small businesses who, with declining revenues and countless restrictions on trade, are finding it tougher than ever to keep their storefronts open. This hasn’t been helped by New Zealand dairies, supermarkets and liquor stores seeing a 25.7% increase in victimisations and theft skyrocketing by over 32% in that time.
The blunt reality, as my colleague Simon Bridges put it, is that true economic prosperity to uplift Kiwi households doesn’t come from the flick of a pen on minimum wage but from an agenda to lift growth and productivity. True community support comes from the safety of better crime prevention not lockdowns. The cost of living is hitting home for many with basic supermarket items out of their price range and that pleasures like cafes, restaurants and home supplies, now out of price range or inaccessible due to the risk it could affect their chances at a Home Loan. With everything COVID-19 has thrown at New Zealand, it is now clear COVID-19 and the Government’s ongoing response to it is throwing a cost of living crisis at us as well.
The strategy for Omicron is flawed with a lack of Rapid Antigen Tests meaning whole townships or suburbs could shut down from one person’s close contact visit and different government entities seem to have different policies in place confusing this for everyone. The National position is clear, legalise all tests already approved in Australia, allow them to be sold in supermarkets and pharmacies, stop seizing tests ordered by the private sector, and allow any business to access them to get employees to return to work.
In summary, anyone who wants one should be able to get one. Looking to the South Island as I write this, many in the hospitality sector of Queenstown are now going to be out of action for days on end due to close contact events and delays in accessing testing for their staff, let alone isolation requirements. The number of community events, ethnic festivals and concerts being cancelled for our city isn’t going to let-up anytime soon as long as New Zealand continues to take an outmoded approach to COVID-19.
In Parliament the new sitting year has gone into full swing with Select Committee’s holding a microscope to Crown Entities and Government Departments. I’ve had the opportunity to scrutinise the Government on a myriad of topics from content regulation to trade and tourism; you can watch this work here. As always, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you have an issue locally or nationally you want heard in our Parliament.
As Summer becomes Autumn we need to remain hopeful better times are just around the corner for New Zealand.
MELISSA LEE MP
National Member of Parliament
National Spokesperson for -
Broadcasting & Media| Digital Economy and Communications | Ethnic Communities
Note: This Column originally ran in Ponsonby News in February 2022
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