Peter Dunne says unless the relevant government officials move quickly to tidy up anomalies around the lockdown as and when they occur, the 'whole effort risks falling apart'

Peter Dunne says unless the relevant government officials move quickly to tidy up anomalies around the lockdown as and when they occur, the 'whole effort risks falling apart'

By Peter Dunne*

The enormity of the government's task in defining the scope of the national lockdown has been highlighted by the confusion over what constitute essential services to be permitted to remain open.

After to-ing and fro-ing on whether the likes of The Warehouse could remain open, or liquor stores continue to trade or whether home deliveries of takeaway food would be permissible, the government finally offered some clarification. But anomalies remain, and almost certainly more will come to light over the next few days as the lockdown takes hold. Unless the relevant government officials move quickly to tidy these up, as and when they occur, the whole effort risks falling apart.

That would be an outright disaster. Every one of us, from the Prime Minister downwards has to take every reasonable step we can to eliminate the Covid-19 virus from New Zealand. While we should not be afraid to employ extreme measures during this critical time, we should equally not be afraid to modify them or abandon them completely if it becomes clear that they are not working out as intended. The worst thing we can do in such situations is to try and make running repairs to the regulations as we go along.

While our experience with occurrences of this magnitude is thankfully limited, we do know that mass restrictions, invariably designed hurriedly in response to a crisis, crash not because of their well-meaning intent, but rather the devil in their detail. Too often we make the mistake of assuming simple, broad-brush solutions can be universally and fairly applied, when clearly that is not the case. In the end, they fail not because the policy intent behind them was wrong, but because the anomalies and exceptions overwhelm them. They then become the major focus of public attention at the expense of the problem they were trying to resolve. Invariably, those who have no option but to comply become more and more resentful that “everyone else” seems able to get around the regulations, but not them.

Even under a state of emergency, and the unprecedented peacetime powers that confers, the democratically elected government still has ultimately to rely on the goodwill of the citizenry to make its plans work. That will be forthcoming so long as everyone continues to feel their contribution to the national sacrifice is an even one and that the sanctions being imposed are reasonable. The swift public rejection of The Warehouse’s suggestion that it should remain open as an essential public service was a good example of people sensing that one organisation was trying to push its luck too far. But it is also a salutary reminder to officials about the level of assurance and deftness they will need to show in dealing with the unexpected situations the lockdown is bound to throw up over the next little while. Government in New Zealand, even in these difficult times, remains a partnership between the governors and the governed.

The range of individual situations that will be affected here is massive, and probably not fully appreciated as yet. Struggling families worrying about their accommodation and the whether the breadwinner’s job will remain; people caring for elderly dependent relatives and those with terminal illnesses; the young mum about to give birth, or the family on the point of breaking up – all these are very real situations for many, many New Zealanders today. They are by no means exclusive, there will be many similar examples. The last thing any of these people can be reasonably expected to cope with alongside everything else at the moment is excessively rigorous, inflexible and intolerant administration of the lockdown which tries to fit their particular square peg into the officials’ pre-determined round holes.

The various natural disasters we have endured in recent years have shown us two things. First, New Zealanders rally round each other in a crisis, and do what they can to help those who are suffering. But, second, sadly, there have also been occasions where rigid and petty-minded officialdom has got in the way of what the community was trying to achieve.  We cannot allow that to derail what we all have to do as a community to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The immediate reaction to the Prime Minister’s call for us all to live within our “bubble” for at least the next little while will be one of acceptance – we fully understand we must all comply, no matter the depth of the personal disruption, to play our part. Initially, at least, there will be no tolerance shown for those shown to be or seeking to flout the rules or create mischief about them. However, that initial wave of support will start to evaporate steadily if questions of fairness and equity begin to occur and gather pace in the community.

Latest opinion poll tracking shows most New Zealanders now support the government’s actions on Covid-19, although only a minority think they will be successful. So, there is still work to be done to bring everyone completely on-side.

The apparent confusion between the Prime Minister and Police Commissioner over the extent to which you can use your private car is a silly distraction the government just does not need at the moment.  In these troubled times one of our best assurances of prudence and stability must be that the elected civilian government is in control and making the decisions, not the Police or the military.

It would be a massive pity if over-zealous policing, nationally and locally, upset the public’s acceptance of the government’s comprehensive and to date responsible efforts to see New Zealand through this crisis. Right now, a deep breath followed by a solid dose of common sense might well be in order for all those administering the lockdown. Keeping focus clearly on the bigger picture is far, far more important.


*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.

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52 Comments

Police commissioner should stay in his lane and let the elected leader call the shots. His speech yesterday contradicted the PM's guidance on some points. I'm no fan of Jacinda's but this is her time to take charge.

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I actually think it is the other way round. Looking at her daily briefings. She comes out with a relatively strong message, but then starts diluting it to be more nice/palatable. She then try's to re-enforce the original message, but by then it is too late.

I think her niceness/empathy is her downfall. She just doesn't have the gravitas to convey the seriousness of the situation.

I disagree. The soft approach is essential. Even before the crisis, there wasn't enough police officers. Our defence force is small. She likely knows we can't afford to go down the martial law route as the Police and Army are outnumbered. If the population ever worked this out, theyre screwed. Like the grasshoppers on Bug's Life when the ants stand against them.

Agreed. We need our leader to be shooting straight and telling it like it is. We are in for a world of hurt and I think the message of "be kind" is a bit ingenuous and takes away from the seriousness of the rest of the message.

Jacinda and her mates remind of my primary school blackboard monitors, who always dobbed me in to the nuns. They can't believe their luck at being allowed to relive the old days again. The police remind me of the school bullies, who are always reluctant to deal with tough people, but they love getting stuck in to normal ordinary people, trying to go about their days.

Suggest the previous Labour lot were worse. Remember the light bulbs and how hot to have your shower. We know, we say, you do. Those identities are standing in the shadows for this government for sure, very close-in shadows they are too.

If you come in as the leader with a sledgehammer you are going to get far more backs up than by bringing people in. I think her approach is pretty much the right one. I expect it is her delivery that you might find lacking, not the actual message. I cannot for the life of me, imagine what harm could come from us all considering the welfare of others.

Law and order is his lane. If he contradicted the PM, it had to be done and she won't fret over it. She gives way when a squad car approaches as well!!!!

So what next ? A coup d'etat?

How about just leaving things to vigilantes like the group in the East Cape or Hone Harawira's lot in Northland?

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Unfortunately many of us in Canterbury encountered ,during the EQ events, an element of self appointed authority that was little short of bullying. On that note Peter Dunne is justified, in fact highly so, of advising both restraint and courtesy be observed by those who are in authority, national and local, at all levels. Commonsense by all concerned is the order of the day surely.

I cannot believe that the police effectively gave that legitimacy. What's next?

I've been warning on these pages for years that people instead of mouthing off about Maori should learn what they are thinking. They are thinking that from the Waikato North they never ceded sovereignty, and point to the "Declaration of Independence 1835" as proof. They are alread in command in pockets. I warned it would not take much of a shift for them to step up their authority over their lands.

However I'll add this, they are also playing a political game and I think they were also too slow to act. Now Hone's lot have isolated themselves even from their own whanau, they've been told to stay where they are and not come back to the land for now. Permanent residents only allowed.

How about learning a bit of history and putting yourself in their shoes. Maori communities have been devastated more than once by introduced diseases so getting on the front foot seems a pretty good idea. This seems especially so when there's still tourists blithely tripping down their roads. Which brings up another point, often these roads do infact at least in part belong to locals, that is, the road is in fact on their land. SH 35 crosses the Motu river just above Marenui. Local iwi most definitely never gave away in any shape the river or it's surrounds.
The legitimacy given by police and councils probably more a reflection of the obvious need to work with community organizations rather than try and sideline them.

Old Hone, eh!! He just can't stop himself, and the TV people cannot stop themselves giving him free publicity. What a bunch of clowns. We all remember how popular his alliance with Kim Dotcom went. None of us could work out which one provided the most toxicity to the other one's brand. So, of course when Hone's name pops up in relation to any issue, all credibility for the poor sods associated goes straight out the window.

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Yes. 'Essential Services' is a classic case here. Essentially, the pooh-bahs have not Clue One about the actual extent of 'essential' when it comes down to specifics. Like trying to get a plumber to replace a pin-holed HWC, but the local HWC manufacturer has closed its doors for 4 weeks or more....(Incidentally, the dopey local Council chlorinated all its water supplies after an over-zealous official decided that, despite a century of zero issues, all well-heads had to be 'made safe'. Chlorination promptly set off a chemical reaction in older HWC's, holing literally thousands across Christchurch. Private cost to ratepayers - tens of millions (an HWC replacement costs between $2-4000). Over-zealous indeed....

Businesses proclaiming themselves as 'essential' kind of on a par with self labeling of products as 'eco/enviro-friendly'

What about Essential Oils is not essential???

Yes, its brilliant we have got to lockdown, political pushing, Doctors petitioning, its good we are here and we join billions of people on earth doing this now.

And yes there are many bits undone.
The government task force started Thursday fortnight ago 12/3, 14 days ago, the Christchurch memorial weekend.

The preparation planning & resourcing is what it is, can't be redone, or done at all. Deal with people who assured us all was in order later, not now.
Now its fix it on the fly, do it on the run.

Fix it on the fly do it on the run requires a different mind set than well done preparation.
Usually super zealous folk are fine in well prepared environments the planning gives them guidance.

Usually fix it on the fly, do it on the run requires a higher level organisational and leadership skill to delivery compared to well preplanned delivery.
The fixes need be fast.
Fast correction of mistakes, not thought through and unintended consequences.

This is just beginning.

Exactly. As a neat example of the lack of forethought and actual planning, there's the logistical jam of containers, wharf space and truck+container movements at ports around the country referred to here on Stuff. The picking order on incoming shipboard containers cannot be finessed to get that Essential container four layers down in the stack first.....and because destination businesses for the three non-essential containers on top are (surprise!) Closed, they cannot be delivered. It's a case of Fire, Ready, Aim......

If we hadn't been living the way we were, we wouldn't be in the pickle we're in.

Two commentators should perchance have a wee think about that.

We will attempt to blame this and that, but the gospel according to endless fre-market endless growth is actually the problem here. Mother Nature is giving us a wee nudge, but I suspect some won't take the hint. So it'll need a bigger nudge.

Dunne, of course, if front and centre the type who led us in the direction of unsustainability. Opinions are all very well, but you wouldn't print the thoughts of Ciano post '44, would you. So why give him space?

We are where we are. And right now (from the example above) we need that essential container.

AT least we are not as bad as the Australians.
In a statement released this morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it has been revealed the instruction that hairdressers and barbers may only spend 30 minutes with each patron was lifted at the meeting of the national cabinet last night "following the receipt of feedback on [its] practical implementation".

It's bewildering and worrying at the same time. In a matter of weeks, Australia could be a massive disaster area and we'll be hit hard too given the level of trade, financial integration and shipping that we have with them. A pity RBNZ's BS11 stipulations weren't put in place much earlier, but oh well, hindsight......

These are the times we find out what we're all made of. The people of Chch know only too well what this means. For the rest (all) of us we have to suck it up & find our character within. I commented about the poor global leadership the other day, but they're damned if they do & damned if they don't. As is said above, it's the delivery that needs nailing. Our border control & it's lack of support has been NZ's achilles heel to date. This was the first fail. However, things will change over the next week to community monitoring & I can only hope we do a better job here. I'm still going to walk the dog at the park but I will make sure my social distancing is appropriate.

True enough. The Christchurch earthquakes sequences (multiple...) have left an enduring resilience in many households. And to add to our relief during the lockdown, it seems that Racing is an Essential Service, so we are doubly (or perhaps Trifecta-ally?) blessed.....

Peter could be received a confidential doc? from TIA (Tourism Industry Aotearoa) - which really upset when the first ban of Chinese travel occurs, this should not happening in the first place. Govt ignore their findings & plea that this all just a knee jerk reactions towards what known as profitable income for the club and all of our tertiary institutions. Handling this Novel virus with the current lockdown is clearly did not calculating the tax contributions from such profitable business endeavor, to choose savings couple non-productive/retiree lives (still probability anyway) vs. income tax generated from active Chinese people movement? - It is a clear no brainer.
Now looks what started to happen; more borrowing, more loan, mortgage holiday, more assistance, ad-hoc rules

Warning: This is on behalf of Govt & RBNZ Tui Ads.

no face to face probs with over zealous officials for the newly unemployed,if you go to the work and income website you will find that they are here to help you but they have had to close their service centres.no queues round the block here.

Having the police run anything is fraught with risk as our 'force' is run along a vaguely military structure and are very slow and rigid in their thinking, Chch earthquakes, Pike River, Whakaari White Island being their most recent benchmarks. D minus! Our armed forces don't even have the resources, personell or training to deploy effectively to a bbq let alone a nationwide response. We will find out in a weeks time or so that neither of them are suitable to be involved in coordinating a civillian emergency.

4th estate. Whakaari I give you, the cops were flatfooted. But on Pike river; while there were some police procedural bungles we are yet to find out if Little's $50m spend will deliver differing conclusions to those the plods arrived at, so I suggest the jury is still out. On CHCH, I'd be interested in why you believe the blue team dropped the ball ? I was closely involved in on the ground stuff there and observing them in action in the CBD I think that in general most of their calls were appropriate.

The Christchurch CBD lockdown was a terrible experience for business owners. They lost inventory, tools, records, and fit-outs that were visible in plain sight in buildings that could have easily been mined into (with, say, a container minus end doors placed into the frontage) and those business essentials extracted. There is a continuing animus towards the authorities to this day, because so many SME's were utterly trashed by the overblown response. Yes, there were some shonky buildings. But the smart lawyers and others signed themselves onto demolition crews, breezed through the cordons, hired cranes and excavators, extracted Their essentials, and carried on. Much of the inventories that remained ended up on TradeMe via the demo crews, because owners were continually denied their property rights. It's a terrible example to parade about.....

Under your scenario someone would have needed to make daily multiple judgements on the safety of individual building access without the benefit of an engineering assessment and in the face of vicious aftershocks ( I vividly recall being in the CBD when they happened and witnessing the terrifying groaning and crumbling of the numerous unreinforced masonry buildings) - ie just make best guess and play russian roulette with numerous lives. But I realise we won't agree on what was appropriate, even with the passage of time. I did encounter officious RZ administration pricks throwing their weight around but in respect of the cops my experience is they were generally fair handed and reasonable. And an anecdote - I witnessed two cops swoop on some demo dudes illegally removing an expensive item, for which action they were prosecuted. But I accept your accusation that much 'salvage' was stolen by the numerous demo cowboys. I realise there is much anger nursed by CBD SME owners but there is also widespread hindsight driven revisionism about the extent of danger at the time.

I used to have confidence in the Police, but a couple of unsavoury incidents, post June EQ, dispelled that toute de suite. Too many identities consider that they, the police are the law, and too often, judging by what ends up in court, that progresses to above the law. The two incidents I refer to happened at home on an ordinary peaceful Monday morning with certain police arriving at the wrong address with the wrong information. Very angry rough men. Never got an explanation let alone an apology. But as a retiree, I admit I was shaken, and bloody relieved they were not armed. Three days later there was a sequel that was similar. Lastly the raid on Mr Dotcom was probably not undeserved on his part, but the Starsky & Hutch sensational pantomime, helicopters on the lawn and in the punitive haste of all that glory, they couldn’t even get the paperwork right. Otherwise he may have been long gone by now.

The raid on Doctom was symptomatic of an undesirable erosion of the independence of different areas of government. (As seemed to be the raid on Nicky Hagar. Both under the same PM.)

It was symptomatic of Shonkey's way of operating....chase the bigger money...even if I have to sell my Mom!

Shonkey always struck me as not having a value set beyond making the deal. I am always reminded of his response when asked on his views at the time of the springbok tour, he said he couldn’t remember.....?

Foxglove. Lest you get the impression I'm a cheerleader for the police, let me dispel that. I am very close to people who have been unjustly and deeply bruised by incompetent (and worse) cops. But I try to objectively take a community wide view, comparing our force to others and believe the vast majority do a pretty good job. On the personal level however I treat any interaction with them about people I care for, with suspicious reservation and under advisement.

tks MM. Understood & concur.

Regardless of how crap our own and others dealings with the police have been, they are all we have got. I have first hand experience of their large role in enforcing protection orders. I had not realised how much of their resources are used in trying to stop angry irrational men from beating up and killing women who won't do what they are told. They are all we have to stop gangs and druglords literally running the show.
So we have to be a bit careful about how we badmouth them. In spite of their clowns in large shiny uniforms spouting off, some of them are trying to do a decent job.

There is no playbook for this, if the idiot minority would stop trying to find loopholes not to say st home this will work out! My fear is that the few will cost us all further weeks in lockdown as they dilute the effect by circulating in the community.

Exactly right. If our names go on the blackboard, we will be kept in after school.

Professor John P.A. Ioannidis of the Stanford University School of Medicine recently wrote at article on Coronavirus which I think is very good and streets ahead of anything that I have seen coming out of the medical profession here. Based on his analysis, a mid-range expectation of deaths in the USA is 10,000 (compared with 22,000-50,000 deaths in a normal flu season). If we extrapolate this to NZ that would equal 152 deaths. That compares with a road toll of 350+ and smoking related deaths of 5,000 annually. The human and social destruction from this lock down will far outweigh the benefits and it’s not unrealistic to assume that suicides will run into the hundreds when this is all over, due to lost jobs and failed businesses. It’s a pity that history is no longer really taught and that people never learn that the majority is generally always wrong. When will we learn...?

That is the question. With the swine flu we had I think about 3500 infections and nineteen deaths. There was no lock down, no closed border. Could someone please explain exactly why this one CV19 is so different, so much more dangerous, to cause these extraordinary measures. Heck they, the scientists, must surely by now be able to give a simple explanation of that to us, the lay people.

Didn't realise you were Hawaiian

It's more contagious and has a higher fatality rate

Ludwig, I write this on 28th March. The Italy death toll is over $9,000 and rose by 900 yesterday. Italy has been in some kind of lockdown since 9th March. Its medical system is in a desperate state. If we followed your advice and did not lockdown I figure, using the deaths per capita in Italy, New Zealand would soon have 746 deaths and rising. All in a month and continuing, not over a year like the road toll and influenza tolls. Is that more acceptable to people with your thinking than suffering the economic consequences of this lockdown? Denmark, for example, does not think so.

P Dunne - "we should equally not be afraid to modify them or abandon them completely if it becomes clear that they are not working out as intended. The worst thing we can do in such situations is to try and make running repairs to the regulations as we go along."
= '...we will need to change as we go. The worst thing we can do is change as we go.'
- yup, Pete as consistent in his messaging as ever...

3 more years for Jacinda and Labour

Yes, everyone is a socialist now and soon we will have more beneficiaries than workers, so they’ll all vote Labour/Greens, while they hand a monopoly to Progressive/Foodstuffs and screw small business here. We will truly get what we deserve, good and hard. Might be time to consider moving to Asia. At least there’s some common sense still in that part of the world...

Ludwig, I agree that the duopoly is making a fortune due to the lockdown measures. I continue to think that no one business should increase their after tax profit, to a great extent, as a result of the measures. This includes the banks. When this emergency is over I would expect if these two sets of businesses have made much increased profits, a big hunk of those profits go back to the taxpayer to help the small businesses that have suffered. We should all share the burden to a reasonable degree. I know I am. Asian common sense? Wuhan (11 million people) and others in Hubei province is still in lockdown and winning the fight against Covid 19.

The ongoing shitstorm over provisioning enough essential outlets is building up, its not lost on me that perhaps there needs to be some dispensations made so businesses with perishable food inventory can liquidate the stock to the public then close down. Otherwise we are handing Countdown supermarkets essentially a blank cheque!

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