Absorbing Covid lessons

Covid commissioner John Whitehead. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Covid commissioner John Whitehead. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Queenstown's response to Covid was canvassed by a Royal Commission of Inquiry last week.

In a one-day session, the three-member commission, looking at "lessons learned" around the country, met with council and Ngai Tahu representatives and businesses both large and small.

Commissioner John Whitehead, a former Treasury head, says they visited Queenstown because of its "important differences" such as our reliance on tourism and large migrant workforce and because "we’re a major port".

Covid resulted in New Zealand closing its borders overnight and many migrants relocating home at short notice.

"Probably the second or third case came through here [in early 2020], and things moved very quickly after that, too," Whitehead says.

He notes "people are coming up with lots of various sensible approaches and learnings they’ve gathered through the process, both on things that worked really well, and things that didn’t go well".

"And, yeah, the next pandemic, and there will be one, will go differently, but I think we can apply quite a lot of those lessons both to a pandemic and, actually, to other forms of disaster.

"And you have plenty of those, I’m afraid."

Whitehead says there’s "huge learnings" from what happened to migrants.

He adds "one of the real privileges" of being a commissioner is hearing how communities stepped up — "just hearing some of these stories is very moving".

His fellow commissioners arechair Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist, and former Cabinet minister Hekia Parata.

The commission’s taking online submissions from the general public from late this month — its final report’s due next September.