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The 'new normal' is exciting

Opinion article by Stacey Shortall


It is hard not to be nostalgic for the pre-coronavirus Aotearoa New Zealand where we used to live. The hustle and bustle of our bars and restaurants. The furore and excitement of our live sporting and music events. The hurly-burly of our busy streets, farmers markets and saleyards. The noise and activity in our school and office corridors.

But we all know that coronavirus is not something that we will bounce back from. It is not a temporary disruption that will let us return to our pre-pandemic lives. Rather coronavirus is here to stay and requires that we adapt to enable a “new normal” to take hold in the land of the long white cloud.

And I reckon that is exciting.

Reflected in the strain on our MIQ booking scanystem is the beacon that Aotearoa New Zealand and our residents provides. People want to get home, to see their loved ones, to contribute to our economy and national community. They bring with them the capabilities, skills and views that will further build the rich diversity that is the foundation of our globally-renowned innovative spirit. As we plainly all realise, we just need to get more of them safely home faster.

Those of us who live and are drawn here may not know what the post-pandemic future holds, but we recognise an opportunity when we see one. We know that, not unlike other countries, coronavirus has hit Aotearoa New Zealand alongside other loud demands for racial and social justice.

Just within recent months we have witnessed debate over our country’s name, identity and the He Puapua report, not to mention (un)equal access to justice and conversion therapy. Our Prime Minister has formally apologised to Pacific communities impacted by the 1970s Dawn Raids. The Waitangi Tribunal has found the removal of Maori children into state care to be a profound and ongoing breach of te Tiriti/the Treaty of Waitangi.

A lack of diversity, particularly in our higher courts, has been widely reported, notwithstanding that Maori and Pasifika reportedly accounted for over half of all criminal charges brought before the courts last year. New research from an association representing senior hospital doctors has found that it will take 100 years before Maori life expectancy catches up with Pakeha life expectancy, while the wealthiest 10% of people in our country can expect to live a decade longer than the poorest 10%.

Our media has continued to recently report about how Maori home ownership sits around 30% and Pasifika around 20%, how 1 in 100 of our people are living in “severe housing deprivation” (like living on our streets or in emergency housing) and how women in our country are estimated to earn nearly $900,000 less over a lifetime than our men. Issues concerning the adverse impact of climate change, lacking sustainability and inequalities in wealth, education and health continue to swirl.

All of these matters are fundamentally racial and social justice issues that we must continue to tackle as part of our new normal. But what the coronavirus pandemic has shown us all is that we can adapt very quickly. We are prepared to go to great lengths to keep each other safe and protected. We are open to listening to experts and adjusting our behaviours. We can change, and we can drive change in others too.

So, as our new normal unfolds, and our ranks swell with those offshore who wish to join us, let’s grab the opportunity to stare down the racial and social justice issues that plague Aotearoa New Zealand. We do not need to live with them like we may need to live with coronavirus. An elimination strategy need not be lost in our country. Instead we might just need to change what it is we come together again as a team to eliminate. For surely none of us would be nostalgic for racial and social injustice.


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