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From your Mayor - 7 March 2022

Mayor Anita Baker

I’m not going to pretend being mayor under Covid-19 conditions has been easy. In fact, the prospect of overseeing the Council’s response to a global pandemic never entered my mind when I sought the job, or until the very moment it hit.

However, while Covid-19 has presented considerable challenges, I feel fortunate to have served in this role during this time. That’s because the crisis has in many ways showcased the best of our city – and, as mayor, I get to meet with so many community groups and individuals from such a wide cross section of Porirua that I’ve been able to see it first-hand.

Food banks and church groups standing up to lockdown and isolation. People without ties to established groups raising their hand and offering to help. On a smaller but no less important scale, neighbours are looking out for neighbours in ways they might not have done in normal circumstances. I’ve seen iwi, youth and Pacific groups take charge of public health messaging and help get our vaccination rate in line with the national average of 95 per cent.

I’ve also met with small businesses who have adapted to really tough conditions and witnessed the dedication of employers across Porirua to keeping the lights on and their staff employed.

Crises bring out the best and worst of people. Perhaps the most worrying is the truly vicious personal abuse that crops up on my social media accounts every day, growing more and more heated as time goes on. It’s not just me – the same is true for my Council colleagues, especially the women. Across the country, unfortunately, it seems to be women who occupy those positions who attract the worst of it.

I know this isn’t the Porirua way, and I hope, once restrictions are lifted and things start to return to normal, we’ll start to see less of it. But it does worry me that people feel the need to vent their frustrations in that way. It’s a style of politics we’ve managed to avoid for the most part in New Zealand and I hope we can put it behind us.

Likewise, the protest now finally at an end at the Beehive is another example of how Covid-19 has poisoned the New Zealand political discourse. Aside from lacking coherence in their message, some of their conduct has been disgusting, and I especially found the way they exposed supermarket and other workers to a public health risk infuriating.

As protestors head home, my hope is they spend less time on Facebook and YouTube and more time connecting back to family and the community. We know ourselves, more than ever, how important those connections are to our wellbeing.

As I started this column by saying, I feel lucky to be in a job that allows me to see so much of Porirua at its best – practical, compassionate, and committed to looking after one another. If we hold on to anything from these past two years, let it be that.

7 Mar 2022