What changes will we make in these wobbly times?
As Aotearoa settles back into a post-lockdown ‘normal’, in our self-isolating bubble, apart from the world, we have a unique opportunity to reflect. Jo and I did some of this in a recent meeting with our accountant, who nudged me to share our observations.
The second phase of wage subsidies has yet to end and, in many ways, our country is still to feel the full brunt of no international tourists – people losing jobs they love, hardship for families, vanished revenue for cafes and shops and tour operators and education providers that supply visitors or overseas students.
In several ways, the pandemic has speeded trends that were already afoot, from a shuffle to a sprint. Advertising-dependant media has been in trouble since I entered marketing 30 years ago. The tourism industry was working to address the pressure on communities and our natural environment the growth in visitor numbers was creating. Working from home has been a toddling trend since before I started, in 2001.
At GoodSense we are extremely grateful to have been on the fortunate side of these changes and to our clients who either continued work with us or commissioned new projects during uncertain times. Thank you for trusting us.
Crises expose vulnerabilities – businesses with loyal customers, loyal staff and loyal shareholders fared best, as they always do. Some owners cut their losses early. Some businesses just didn’t have the cash reserves to see them through. Some organisations lost revenue they relied on more than many of us realised; Auckland Council being a case in point.
The massive fall in user-pays revenues from lockdown, and reluctance to borrow more, create bonds or even consult on a raise rates above a 3.5%, means Auckland is confronting council spending cuts that will harm some of the things we are valuing most at the moment – conservation of our unique birds and creatures and the wonder of live performances. By contrast, central Government is spending more than ever on conservation and Wellington is investing more in the arts, as part of that city’s rebuild.
Our city centres are likely to be the most affected over time. Offices and city car parks are still not filled as people choose to continue working from home. There is some hand-wringing over this, but ‘central business districts’ crammed with corporate offices and gridlocked twice a day are a hangover from the last century, and arguably a remnant of the first industrial revolution.
For those who are set up and supported to work from home, it offers better work-life balance and can enable people to be more productive. There is some conflict at the moment between some employers who want everybody back under their controlling gaze and some employees who want the freedom of working at home and rescued commuting time.
Perhaps it will be local neighbourhood cafes that benefit from those home workers lunches and local bars that flourish for after-works drinks, and some central places will close. Potentially we will see more shared office spaces in suburbs or small centres, for people who want to work close from home but have the buzz of people around them, like Kindred Coworking Mangawhai where our team member Brad is now working 20 hours a week.
Over time, perhaps some of the ditched CBD glass towers will be turned into apartments, creating a more affordable inner-city living. More densely populated city centres will help bars and restaurants, theatres and galleries to thrive.
This feels like a transition point, a speed wobble as these trends play out, fast.
As individuals, communities and organisations we have choices to make. Small decisions in times of change can have a big impact.
Do we stay in a locally owned hotel for that night away – and keep our dollars circulating here – or do we choose an overseas chain where the profits flow to an overseas bank account? Do we keep that new veggie garden going and pass on a box of spare greens to the family still trying to survive on the pre-COVID level benefit? Do we walk to the dairy, even though there are more cars on the street again, to help spare the climate? Will we willingly pay more tax, invest for social impact or shift our kiwi saver to a more ethical provider? Will we volunteer our time to plant trees tui love in our neighbourhood?
Now we are back together, will we choose to keep the kindness and the courage we found in the quiet?
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