What future, New Zealand?
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 27 August 2021
I do not want to write about the Crowne Plaza exercise area. Or the glacial pace of immunisation rollout. Or the saline solution vaccines.
I also do not want to write about the problems with the MIQ booking system. Or contact tracing capacity issues. Or the arbitrary lockdown rules.
I will not go into detail about the processing time for Covid tests. Or, for that matter, the government’s refusal to use saliva testing. Or the long testing queues.
Unlike last year, the media has focused heavily on government failures. As a result, I will not go over them here.
But I would like to express how sad I am about the current situation. I am worried about the future of the country as an open and liberal democracy. My primary concern is the deterioration of our civil liberties.
Some may accuse me of being ungrateful. They will claim that our government saved us from certain death. They will ask if I would rather be in the UK, Germany, India or the US. If I am unhappy, they may suggest I leave.
All these criticisms miss the point.
For the past 18 months, while other countries were in turmoil, we had relatively few restrictions. That is something to be thankful for.
But our current path is not promising.
Even once everyone had the opportunity to be vaccinated, the government will not remove all Covid restrictions.
The government will build its own MIQ facilities. It will take at least a year to complete. The ability to travel wherever we wanted and return whenever we wanted will be a treasured memory for many years to come.
We will be unable to take international holidays. We will not be able to visit our friends and family overseas. Doing business worldwide will remain difficult.
Meanwhile, life in New Zealand will change. We will always be bound by rules. Covid outbreaks will be a constant concern, shutting down parts of the country without warning. Any plan will always be subject to change. There will be no certainty.
The power balance in our country will have shifted in favour of the state. We will live in a world where the state is in charge of our well-being and security. A state that, by the way, consistently fails at basic tasks.
No matter how grateful we are to be alive, who would want to live in such a dystopian society?
For Covid’s sake, how much freedom will New Zealanders sacrifice? The answer to that question will determine the future of our country.