Prime Minister Ardern will soon announce what a vaccine passport is and what it will do. Currently it is to be used for entry into massed gatherings. Our driver’s license was never meant to be a form of identification, but that is primarily what it is now.
So the role of the vaccine passport will grow as soon as it is launched, and will be particularly important as we start to imagine where we could be again. So many of us have plans for our venture into the world in the near year, young and old, rich and worker, as we have had for New Zealand’s entire existence. We have ambition beyond the re-regulated life.
In the coming months Fortress New Zealand will be dismantled. It was necessary to retain a period of introspection as the great COVID19 policies were rolled out. But that needs to go. We need to put away looking to the government to provide answers to our lives as we have done for 18 months and counting. We need our own personal plan for 2022 that compels us to action far away from the overwhelming state.
Beyond the plans of those held here, COVID19 has frozen immigration. I can bet it’s had an impact on fertility as well. This demographic shock will be greater than whether the cherry farms of Ettrick get their cherries to Tokyo in December. Immigration has been a primary lifeblood of growth and dynamism in New Zealand, and it is high time New Zealand employers and public services put unequivocal pressure on this government to open us up to the exceptional minds, concepts and capital that we need. Many of them were from New Zealand in the first place, and indeed the idea of the ’empowered return’ is part of the social contract of New Zealand. We need you back more than ever now.
The COVID-accentuated shortage of materials and people together tells us a simple thing about New Zealand: we can’t do this on our own. We’re not the Lucky Country Australia where they just dig another hole and build another empire. So instead we’ve built this country on international networks of markets and people. The longer we sever those networks the more New Zealand will diminish.
The fortress is running out of rationality. Auckland will within a week get to 90% vaccinated first shot with likely 95% by Christmas, and the rest of the country not far behind other than in isolated rural hamlets. If we can vaccinate a country with such speed we can re-make our own plans with similar speed.
We don’t want New Zealand to be a little nation, anxious about the world and disposed to erect more barriers around us. We want that feeling we had when we won great things contesting against the world, achieved unreasonable feats, built rocket ships, woollen shoes, outrageous movies, and world-best gin. It is better to be what we have always been joining internationally, than to diminish alone.
As we have done with all living things trying to get through our border, New Zealand has been exceptionally vigilant filtering pathogens and disease as we will be with future COVID variants, but we have to remain self-assured and bold enough to keep these risks in perspective. We are actually pretty good at biosecurity, as the rare and small COVID19 outbreaks have shown.
New Zealand prosperity and security depends on our engagement with the world. Every company in New Zealand with international ambition, every young person frustrated with New Zealand’s limitations, every family with an ambitious plan – we must all make a plan to re-engage with the world. The role for the government in 2022 is much smaller although important: form the system to enable travel and exchange just as they did with the global airport and airline security system after 9/11.
At our best, New Zealanders are adventurers, a small country with a remarkable sense of adventure and boldness. We need the great world to let us reveal of ourselves wheat New Zealand alone cannot, and in turn reveal anew New Zealand that is so profoundly good and fresh that the best of the world will choose us again.
Fortress New Zealand is a diminished New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern, tear down this wall.