To be essentially exceptional

It is not surprising businesses smarting from the damage to their livelihoods from the four-week Covid-19 lockdown have been keen to see themselves as essential.

A variety of businesses, including butchers, greengrocers, bottle stores and community newspapers have been arguing their case to continue trading.

Initial confusion about what would be considered essential was unfortunate, and some retailers, such as greengrocers, who were not deemed vital were caught with an excessive amount of stock.

Bottle stores have been allowed in those licensing trust areas where alcohol is not sold in supermarkets, although questions have been asked about whether there are too many.

Predictably, Act party MP David Seymour has been pushing for greater flexibility, arguing that allowing greengrocers, bakeries and butchers to open would help fight Covid-19 because it would lessen the travelling for some people.

We are not sure that is a valid argument. If people need to visit several stores to get their essential supplies, the opportunity for contact with others who might have the disease is increased.

There have also been those who have been critical that local dairies which sell goods such as cigarettes and soft drink, were given priority over butchers and greengrocers.

But the idea is that the dairy provides other basic foods, and may include some meat, fruit and vegetables, allowing some to shop as close to home as possible, and in one place.

The Otago Daily Times’ publisher Allied Press produces a stable of community newspapers across the South Island. Such operations are in a different league from food stores, helping communities feel connected and playing a role in disseminating important information to those who might otherwise be hard to reach in any other way.

Pressured by the Community Newspapers Association, publishers and communities themselves, the Government was right to yesterday make its first, halting steps toward acknowledging they, too, can be essential local services.

Act and others have also been concerned about the lack of price competition for the supermarket duopoly in the crisis.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved to nip rumours of supermarket price gouging in the bud, setting up a dedicated email address for shoppers to report any concerns. She also said some online accounts of price gouging were being followed up.

She pointed out it was not illegal for businesses to increase their prices but if a business gave a reason for an increase, it had to be true, or it risked breaching the Fair Trading Act.

With so many businesses hurting, her statement nobody wants to see anyone take unfair financial advantage from this extraordinary period was a well-timed warning to those who might be tempted to do so.


Earlier this year, we reported the sad news that six kea had been killed in Aspiring National Park by a 1080 poison drop aimed at controlling rats and stoats.

Responding to this, Department of Conservation threats director Amber Bill said it was believed the dead kea were more at risk of eating poison baits because they had learned to scrounge for food from trampers.

She said an education campaign to discourage trampers from feeding kea was being considered.

A fed kea is a dead kea is the mantra of others working to save kea, who see them dying of other causes such as lead poisoning from roofs and other places because they have been enticed to towns.

It is not only trampers who may harm endangered birds by feeding them. A comprehensive education campaign about the dangers of all inappropriate bird feeding is needed.

It would be great if Doc staff could use this time when some will be free of their usual duties to plan such a campaign. In the meantime, we hope kea may benefit from the reprieve from unwanted human attention during the lockdown.



One would hope that “the reprieve from unwanted human attention during the lockdown" would include a moratorium on DOC's use of 1080, which has been the single largest cause of kea deaths.

Local journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Otago Daily Times reporters and photographers continue to bring you the stories that matter. For more than 158 years our journalists have provided readers with local news you can trust. This is more important now than ever.

As advertising drops off during the pandemic, support from our readers is crucial. You can help us continue to bring you news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter