Sir Ian Taylor wrote an open letter to the PM saying it is time to bring on the bench in the fight against Delta.
. . . Where our opposition initially focused on the health of our people we have seen now that it had a deeper strategy. It would also go after our economy, slowly but surely infecting, and in many cases, destroying the very businesses that will be needed to fund our team in the future.
Which leads me to the bench.
The players on the bench aren’t there to replace the entire run on team, they are there to consolidate what those players have done. To address the strengths and weaknesses that the coach has identified so that we have the best shot at winning. . .
Now is the time to go to the bench, because we have identified the double game plan that has been unleashed on us. The first is Covid, now in Delta variant mode, has adjusted far faster to the changing playing conditions than we have.
The second is the unseen variant that is slowly but surely working its way through the forward pack, our economic engine. That engine will be desperately needed if we are to stay in the game after the initial opening rounds.
The lockdown system, alongside the MIQ booking platform, are two obvious weaknesses in our current game plan.
The economy simply cannot afford to keep replaying the same level 4 restrictions that played out over the past couple of weeks, nor can businesses expect to operate successfully on the international playing fields with an MIQ system that simply has no rules they can play by. . .
Sir Ian has written a second open letter, this time suggesting how business can help get ahead of the virus:
. . . This week we had to walk away from a significant, multi-year contract because we could not risk sending our people out to service it without knowing when we could get them home.
It’s the second such contract in the past month, and we aren’t alone.
Businesses are sending people overseas with no idea when they will be coming home.
One business colleague who operates in nine countries around the world is now planning to move his entire family to Europe simply because he cannot guarantee an MIQ space for business trips that he regularly took to keep his business in New Zealand operational.
This is a hi-tech business employing more than 250 people.
These businesses are essential to keeping the export dollars coming that are needed to fund the entire team of five million – and the major road blocks to keeping those dollars flowing, are MIQ and the interpretation of what an essential business is. . .
Handicapping businesses at the best of time is a mistake, doing it when we’re living on borrowed billions is sabotaging them and the wider economy.
Last week the Covid Response Minister said: “What people don’t understand is that building a points-based (MIQ) booking system is very difficult!”
All sorts of things Ministers and their officials find difficult are not to people whose businesses rely on finding workable solutions and finding them quickly.
The advice from the bench would have been: “No Minister. Sending rockets into space from Mahia – that’s difficult. Delivering real-time graphics to golf tournaments in New York, Prague and Scotland whilst also covering a 10-day yacht race in Keel, Germany, in the same week from an office in Dunedin – that’s difficult! Building a points based booking system? ‘Yeah/nah, not really’.”
We have a tech industry sitting on the bench that could do that in a heartbeat.
And we have a government that won’t use that bench.
Booking a space in MIQ: now that’s difficult!
But there is far more value we can bring from the bench.
We, and others, have operated in some of the most Covid-ravaged countries in the world and we have kept our Kiwi staff Covid-free for more than a year and a half because of the protocols that have been put in place by the businesses we work with. . .
What we have learned from our experience over the past year and a half is that businesses have a huge interest in keeping their people safe from Covid and they can do it faster than governments because they aren’t having to look after entire countries.
We are only ever sending small numbers away at any time. The 250 staff company I mentioned earlier has a maximum of eight people who ever have to travel abroad. It’s not an Olympic team.
When we look at opportunities, and that’s what this is, we never explore why things might not work. We always ask: “What if we pulled it off?”
So, “what if” businesses didn’t need to take up MIQ spaces. “What if” businesses could apply existing technologies and protocols that would guarantee that none of their teams would have Covid when they returned to Aotearoa from their essential overseas travels. . .
They have a model that’s been working and is continuing to work safely, why can’t they use it?
“What if” the Government could put in place, quickly, the following:
• 1: An accreditation and audit system that approved the processes that individual companies could present for their people who had to travel abroad. To begin with, that would have to be for business reasons only but the option exists to expand it, if it proves successful.
They would also have to be vaccinated.
• 2: Approval for a range of antigen tests already being used successfully so companies could set up their own programmes as part of their accreditation. Ideally you would prioritise Kiwi companies working on these tests because that also creates an enormous export opportunity for them. Approving these tests should be a priority.
• 3: An oversight government agency to work with businesses to implement their strategies quickly. NZTE or Callaghan Innovation spring to mind.
• 4: The same agency would be in charge of the audit process to ensure businesses are meeting the obligations in their accredited protocols. . .
The government has proved it’s very good at shutting the country down. It doesn’t have the experience and expertise to start opening up again even though the longer we’re closed to the world the greater the economic and human cost will be.
Sir Ian is right – it’s time to bring on the bench to enable businesses to do business, and do it safely.