2 December 2021
To Tamaki Makaurau with Aroha
This week sees a major change in the Government’s response to Covid19 with the introduction of what is called the Covid19 Protection Framework by the Government but what is known to the rest of us as the traffic light system. The traffic light system is the result of the Government changing from their elimination strategy in the face of the Delta variant. The downside for us is that we now have a whole new set of criteria that we need to comply with but the upside is that after 107 days in Level 4 or Level 3 lockdown, Tāmaki Makaurau gets a degree of freedom that has not been seen since 17th August.
Whilst the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand, with the exception of Northland and Waikato for certain periods, has been living under the relative freedoms of Alert Level 2, Tāmaki Makaurau has been locked down tight. Across the rest of the motu, our local centres have been able to run licenced sessions at Playcentre but not in Tāmaki Makaurau. Across the rest of the motu our local centres have had to face the challenge of the mandate by gathering together as far as the mandate allows but in Tāmaki Makaurau it has been far more limited. Across the rest of the motu we have had to work hard to collect data on the vaccination status of our parent volunteers with the local centres open to act as the focal point but not in Tāmaki Makaurau.
On top of this, because of the larger number of adults involved with Playcentre, the Ministry of Education determined that our local centres could not open but other ECE providers could. Our staff and parent volunteers in Tāmaki Makaurau have had to face all of this whilst isolated from each other and their own whānau across the motu with the border around the city closed tight. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, our tamariki have no real understanding of what is going on. All they know is that they are unable to go to their Playcentre, unable to enjoy their time playing with their friends and unable to enjoy whānau tupu ngātahi.
There is no doubt that the challenges we have faced and continue to face as an organisation have been probably the toughest in our 80 year history. Whilst I know many people in Tāmaki Makaurau and talk to them regularly, I can’t fully appreciate the deep impact that the lockdowns have had. I have listened to the stories of the people I speak to and feel for them but then I can walk out of the office for a coffee or as I have been doing for the past few weeks, I can jump in my car and go and visit one of our local centres, listening and talking with parents and throwing paint filled sponges at walls with laughing and happy tamariki. This has been denied to all our people in Tāmaki Makaurau for 107 days.
The new traffic light system will at least provide the opportunity to change that. At all light levels, our centres are able to open but that in itself creates more challenges. I know of some centres in Tāmaki Makaurau who are desperate to open but with only a couple of weeks left before Christmas, others are struggling to work out what to do, how to reconnect to members and muster the resources necessary to bring the centre “back online”. The new traffic light system presents challenges for us all as we come to terms with what we can or cannot do but for Tāmaki Makaurau, our people have to do that whilst grappling with the challenges of restarting after more than 3 months shutdown.
I am full of admiration for our people across the motu for facing the challenges we have over recent months but I feel a deep burden for our people in Tāmaki Makaurau who have had to face those challenges isolated and locked down. I am so thankful to everyone who has been doing all they can to keep Playcentre going in Tāmaki Makaurau in the face of such adversity. Thank you so much.
Despite the traffic light system coming in on Friday, Tāmaki Makaurau is still cut off until the border opens on the 15th of December. I have been talking with our people in Tāmaki Makaurau and shared my desire to stand beside them. Based upon their feedback, I will be travelling up to the City of Sails on the 16th and 17th of December to spend time with our people and learn more about what we can do to support their recovery. This will also be an opportunity to meet with Tara Solomon, our new Regional Manager for Upper North Island, whom we welcomed with an online whakatau on Wednesday. I will then book time in late January to spend more time with them as centres open for the new term.
I have also asked Ruth Jones, our National Support Manager, to work with Tara and our people in Tāmaki Makaurau to create a Tāmaki Makaurau Recovery Plan so that we can provide all the support we can. I anticipate a key part of this plan will be how we reconnect with all our whānau and how do we plan for growth based around Playcentre Week in March 2022 but I am confident that the creativity and passion of our people in Tāmaki Makaurau will shine through into that recovery plan.
I do not underestimate the challenges we face across the motu but when we have a part of our whānau that is really struggling, we need to do all we can to support and help them through it. Now more than ever, Tāmaki Makaurau needs to feel the aroha of Playcentre Aotearoa. I’ll be taking it with me when I visit but as a national movement we can do much more than that. I invite every Playcentre around Aotearoa New Zealand to send messages of encouragement and support to our centres in Tāmaki Makaurau. Cards, emails, social media messages, whatever works. I encourage you to involve your tamariki as well if you can and unleash the creativity of handprints, drawings and any other way that they can send messages of aroha and support. Christmas is traditionally a time of giving, so let’s give our people in Tāmaki Makaurau a huge shout out, a positive lift and share the aroha with them.
To all our people in Tāmaki Makaurau, you have faced a set of circumstances that none of us wanted. You have done an amazing job to get through it. We stand with you and I’ll see as many of you as I can as soon as the border opens.
We have added and updated the Frequently Asked Question Bank to be inline with the new COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system).
We now have the following sections and there are new questions under each:
Please click here to view them
Thank you for providing such constructive feedback through the COVID-19 feedback form. Each response is valuable and is being considered and discussed as we navigate this situation.
If you have a question or would like clarity on a specific point, please submit this through the COVID-19 feedback form available here: https://www.playcentre.org.nz/covid-19/feedback-form-covid-19/
We are updating the COVID-19 website guidance and taking off the alert level information and replacing it with the COVID-19 Protection Framework information.