“Looks like you pushed the rain button,” my neighbour gleefully teased as the tanker rolled up.
Our first water delivery in more than a decade arrived on Tuesday accompanied by a persistent drizzle – the sort that tends to turn into a downpour just as your couple of hundred dollars clears in their account.
To rub salt into the wound, our own failed water management strategy coincided with a brace of irony-tinged messages out of Auckland Council’s comms department. First was Mayor Goff’s plea to save water and ban on hoses and water-blasters.
While most of us were still singing two verses of Happy Birthday in front of running taps, he was reminding us that we were living through one of the most severe droughts in Auckland’s history and the city’s reservoirs had received just 36 percent of their usual replenishing rainfall.
In response, the council’s Emergency Committee had voted unanimously to introduce mandatory water restrictions, which will come into effect across the region from Saturday 16 May.
“I hope Aucklanders will understand the need to adhere to these measures, but if we have to, we have a range of enforcement options available for those who choose to ignore the restrictions,” the mayor menaced.
Fair enough. Tough times, team of five million and all that.
Then another ping on the inbox, this time from Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters department and the local board.
“There has been over 31.5mm of rainfall during the last week, and Waiheke water tanker suppliers indicated that they are operating at ‘business as usual’ with only 1 to 2 days of wait.
“We are proposing to close the contingency drinking water sites at Matiatia carpark and Onetangi Sports Park at 5pm on Friday 15 May 2020. Signage will be put up at both sites and staff manning the sites will advise people of the proposed closure time and date.”
Of course, the two facts don’t conflict entirely – it’s perfectly possible to be living through a dire months-long regional drought and yet have enough short-term local precipitation to see an end to Waiheke’s two emergency water supplies. But it does demonstrate how exactly the same overall forecast can elicit different responses – even from within the same organisation.
The same can be said for the fraught economic forecast that faces us as we clamber out of lockdown and ease the Covid-19 restrictions that have shackled business. This week’s Budget is undoubtedly the most vital in a generation – possibly a century – and must pull an entire country away from the financial brink. But on Waiheke, there will be as many solutions as there are individual challenges and some of them will be moulded by our own micro-climate rather than the overall national picture.
This edition of the Gulf News is dedicated to this micro-climate. The day we hit the newsstands, Grant Robertson will deliver his “recovery Budget” while a prime minister with a communications degree will continue to grapple with an internal comms scandal after an unintended email found its way out of The Beehive bubble advising the Government to “dismiss” inquiries into their pandemic response.
These are important – and potentially election-shaping issues. But this edition of the Gulf News is unashamedly focused far closer to home.
Waiheke Budgeting Services manager Amelia Lawley tells us she’s “poised for an onslaught” when the wage subsidy dries up and says there’s already a crisis among the island’s South American community, many of whom were laid off at the start of the lockdown and have been living on savings and handouts ever since. We will undoubtedly in the coming weeks and months see businesses – some of them well-known – fail in the sort of climate that Amelia describes. But there will also be individuals and companies that rise to the occasion.
Peppered all through these pages are stories of organisations and businesses who are adapting and striving to get through these tortuous times. These are the innovators and artists; these are the community-minded, the creative, the charitable, the entrepreneurial, the collaborative and the kind; these are the people willing to shake the tree and see what falls out.
The role of a newspaper under these circumstances is to continue to hold accountable those who make decisions that affect us all and to carry on reflecting the lives and telling the stories of our friends, neighbours and colleagues – the people who make Waiheke tick. But it is also to inspire.
The Census results that came out just before lockdown reckon there are more than 9000 of us on Waiheke now – that’s 9000 potential stories, some of which will show individuals battered by the tempest and some of which will reveal people in full sail with a following tide.
The measure of success for how Waiheke weathers this storm will be how these two groups come together. It may be raining, but some of us still have empty tanks. • James Belfield