Response to flouting law called ‘cruel’

An outbreak of Covid-19 may challenge New Zealanders at a time when they are already under strain...
The ‘‘cruel’’ reaction to an Auckland couple breaching Level 4 lockdown is a product of a campaign of fear causing people to lose their humanity, a Dunedin psychiatrist says.

Last week, Auckland couple William Willis (35) and Hannah Rawnsley (26) escaped lockdown and flew to a holiday home in Wanaka, prompting outrage on social media.

University of Otago department of psychological medicine senior lecturer Dr Chris Gale said people under stress did silly things and those in Auckland were under ‘‘a huge amount of stress’’.

While it was important the actions of the couple were not condoned, they had become scapegoats for disproportionate cruelty, including death threats, he said.

Positive reinforcement worked better than punishment, so people should be concerned with supporting those who had broken the rules to do better.

The public should be thanking the couple for owning up to their mistakes instead of vilifying them, he said.

Most people would forget about the couple within a week and a new target would come up for people to direct their anger towards.

Part of the anger towards the couple came from a ‘‘prolonged campaign of fear’’ from the Government and the media over Covid-19.

‘‘Everybody is being told over and over that they should be scared,’’ Dr Gale said.

People were being told if they followed the rules then New Zealand could stop the virus, but it was not as simple as that.

The emotive nature painted the picture that if people broke the rules they were ‘‘evil’’, he said.

Social media fed into those feelings and drove people away from caring for others.

Most people would have broken the rules in some way, whether it was talking to a struggling neighbour or visiting an elderly family member in need.

Breaking the rules to help someone could in some cases be the right thing to do, he said.

‘‘There’s more to life than Covid and there’s more to life than these rules.’’

The Ministry of Health was ‘‘incredibly controlling’’ and should stop trying to micro-manage people’s lives with constantly shifting strict rules, he said.

New Zealand should be adaptable as the current lockdown conditions were not sustainable in the long term as people would continue to break them.

‘‘At the end of all of this nobody is going to remember how compliant you were with the rules, but your neighbours are going to remember how much you cared for them.’’


View all

And yet again, this shows where academics and common sense part ways, it was planed, they were not scared and I would use the term "rich brats", they also didn't own up they were turned in!!!

Well I'm not scared of Covid either, given that WHO has published the latest survival rates.
99.7% chance of survival, when I catch it.
No problems.
I'm more scared of the type of society NZ has become...

If that is the 'latest published survival rate' that would possibly take into account the widespread use of vaccinated populations wouldn't it? If that is the case, then indeed, the vaccine is doing as intended. May we have a link to check 'your facts' please?

I agree 100 % with Taieri B.

"Your neighbours are going to remember how much you cared for them.’’ And also how much you didn't care for them when you selfishly ignored sensible precautions to avoid a situation that is visibly causing mayhem. Although I agree death threats are over the top.

There is no evidence of death threats being made. The accused couple claimed death threats but have provide no support for the claim. Dr Gale has made a point of highlighting every unsubstantiated claim as a defence for these two. Why? Possibly some sort of professional arrogance? His views as expressed here in the ODT represent the most unprofessional outburst of unsubstantiated nonsense that I've ever seen in the ODT. Has he perhaps been retained by the couple or their agents as a part of their clearly orchestrated public defence campaign? Maybe not, but it has that appearance and perception is reality.

Rules? People are being asked to prevent spread of an airborne virus. Should they attend to this, or not?

Death threats must be reported to police. However, where is the evidence?

What an absolute pile of academic rubbish, I would almost suspect he was a COVID denier but am satisfied he is a just an academic who has never been in the real world and lives in a country that basically has seen no horrors of this pandemic.
I live in the UK these days and I know what this disease does to communities that ignore precautions, the country is now highly vaccinated and yet is still averaging nearly 150 deaths a day (NZ equivalent of 10 a day) - does that sound like a case for unfounded fear-mongering by a govt ?
And people in NZ got mad over these two not because they are scared and cruel but because they were sneaky and arrogant, something that kiwis hate (it didn't help they came from Auckland but we have to accept that they probably have a higher proportion of at least on of those traits up there) especially when most everyone else were hunkering down and doing their bit for the community.
So please stop publishing comments from these naive, sheltered people and just go and talk to real people on the streets and rural roads - that way you will get a honest and proper reaction that represents what is actually happening in the country.

Dr Gale is a leading practitioner in public mental health services, consulting with patients from all walks of life. A specialist in his field, but not ensconced in academia, which is apparently not the real world.

Spot on. The wisest thing anyone has ever said about this covid saga. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts doc.

He looks like he is doing it hard in lockdown. Another proponent of the excuse society NZ has become. Aw poor them they did things under stress. Yeah right well done Chris. Meanwhile I cant go to my Mothers funeral so I suppose I will steal a motorbike and go up there aye? In their so called apology they said what they did was inexcusable and I agree. Take the holiday home off their family and raffle it off to a young family in real distress.

I seriously resent being told to show tolerance towards a couple of wealthy, self entitled individuals who believe they can do as they please while the vast majority of the population sacrifice their freedoms for the greater good. And Mr Gale's anti government, anti health department rants belong in the same rubbish bin as conspiracy theories and anti vaccination propaganda.

Finally some sanity. The hate mail and threats over the rule breakers is completely over the top and sad to see in NZ.

Given the comments here run 10-1 against, I would sadly suggest that NZ society has succumbed to knee jerk infantilism.

I would suggest it's a global pandemic, to which NZ society is a part of, albeit, in a very very very small way. Nonetheless, I doubt there are many in NZ that would like to experience what most of the world has already systems completely over-run, millions of deaths and rolling lockdowns. Nor do I think many would be content to live with some 'long Covid' health implications, or worse. May I suggest that NZ has reacted swiftly, because we see what happens when we do little or protest at every turn. If you would like to term that as 'kneejerk', then so be it. None of us are enjoying this, we're doing what we can to keep our population safe, a population of our family and friends.

Why should anyone feel sorry for two self entitled people who deliberately set out to flout the rules by falsely stating the reason for the exemption.
They must have worked out in advance how they would do it so there is intent.
As for the "academic " he should remove his head from where it is and appreciate what the general population thinks of this disgusting escapade.
The South Island has been free of Delta and residents have generally been complying with the rules and so dont need JAFA"s ruining it.
My wife has a daughter in Dunedin who is quite sick but as its too dicey to travel from Aus to see her they havent met for over two years. Neither are complaining as thats how it is.

oh plse stop asking us to have empathy for these bunch of deniers and ask why last year a woman was jailed for the very same offence except she was going to a funeral with her 4 children. where is the justice here ?

Nothing to do with Dr. Gale being an academic. See his blog to see his real beliefs. Anti vax, anti mask, anti covid scanning, gays and Muslims must repent, women must obey their husband etc. etc.

Strange explanation from Dr Gale, and then to come out in support of them. They were blatant in their actions to sneak out of Auckland. I wonder if Dr Gale would think the same if they were infectious and spread Covid causing illness and perhaps death.

......let alone weeks and possibly months of extended lockdowns. Doubtful we as a country can afford that. I think many of us are looking forward to some kind of Xmas with our families/friends and maybe a summer to remember for all the right reasons :)

Dr Gaunt’s comments are so odd it has me wondering what has motivated them. I wonder if he is known to the family in some way?
He first suggests they were under stress. No, it was a cool, knowing and calculated act. No stress involved.
He repeats the unsubstantiated claim that they received death threats. There is no evidence to support this claim and repeating it in this way is entirely unprofessional.
He endorses positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Maybe for kindy kids, but adults know there are consequences for breaking the law, the consequences are punishment.
He says we should thank them for owning up. Rubbish! They are only apologetic because they were caught. Had they not been, they would never have owned up and would be laughing at us.
He says there has been a prolonged campaign of fear by the authorities but provides nothing to support this. There has been a prolonged education campaign. Nobody is being told they should be scared. The dull and the ignorant may become fearful but these two are part of the privileged elite. They were not driven by fear.
I could go on.
IMHO, Dr Gaunt has presented us with the most unprofessional view I’ve seen in ODT.

At last, someone the paper is prepared to print who is using common sense and sees the virus for what it is - a danger but not something to fear. Being able to decide as adults what to do is refreshing after all this time, and after two lockdowns. People are fed up being addressed as children from the "pulpit of truth" every day.

View all



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter