Covid-19 is presenting a different economic situation to any other we have seen before.

Previous significant economic shifts have generally driven by significant disruption to sharemarkets – such as the 1987 crash, supply – such as the oil restrictions of the 1970s – or demand.
The current lockdown is impacting both. We have enterprises willing to open and operate, and customers and clients wanting to spend, but between the two stand significant risks to public health presented by a highly communicable and as yet unpreventable global pandemic.
Surrounding this risk is considerable uncertainty: we don’t know how this is going to play out; when it will be safe to leave home and return to work; what the real impacts on our nation, region, enterprises, or households will be; and what the world will be like when we return to unrestricted operations – whenever that may be.
To give us some idea, we can look to the past. While we don’t have any direct comparisons to the current economic impacts, we can look at economic events such as the global financial crisis, downward trends in commodity price fluctuations, and even policy decisions like the cessation of future offshore oil exploration licenses. Viewing these events with the benefit of hindsight tells us that three things are valuable in our regional response to economic shocks.
First, we need a plan. We need to know where we want to go, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. Fortunately, Taranaki is well positioned in this space. Tapuae Roa, the current regional economic development strategy, set out forward paths within four futures and four foundations to help our economy continue to evolve, diversify and grow. Work against that strategy has progressed well over the last 2 years and will serve us well in the coming months.
Beyond Tapuae Roa, we have Taranaki 2050, the roadmap which defines our region’s path over the next three decades towards a low-emissions future. The process of developing the Roadmap involved thousands of people around the Maunga, and the resulting action plans (published already or being drafted) provide our region with useful focal areas that we can pivot, progress and potentially accelerate now to ensure Taranaki responds strongly, and is more resilient in the future.
Secondly, we need to think big. It’s a terminology I use both in reference to our region’s past, and in hope for our region’s future. We know that the economy beyond Covid-19 will differ from the economy prior. I like to think many of the core factors and behaviours we have exhibited as a community in lockdown – kindness, equity, balance, and consideration of others – will be retained and will reshape our society going forward. But we also need to acknowledge that with challenge comes the time for new thinking, new hopes, new expectations and new ideas. Through thinking beyond the norm we will create the ideas, innovation and projects that will provide resilience and opportunity in the future, insulating our region from future challenges and supporting shared prosperity for all of our people.
Finally, we need support. While there is a remarkable skillset and strong support resident in our region, we can’t do this by ourselves. Alone we can make some progress toward delivering on our plan and investing in our big ideas, but we just don’t have the resources to get all the way. The support our enterprises and individuals have received from the Government has been a great start, and we are working hard to ensure the region is well represented in opportunities to attract large-scale ‘shovel-ready’ project funding. But as we turn our focus from response to recovery, there will be more need for more support, from all corners of the community. As the Minister of Finance has noted, while the need for a Wellbeing Budget has not diminished, a Recovery Budget is the greater priority this year.
While Venture Taranaki and our many valued partners are applying and progressing these three themes at a regional economic level, there is a need to take a consistent approach at enterprise, whanau and individual level. We all need to have a plan about how we can regain momentum beyond the lockdown. We all need to think about what we want our business, our community and our families to be like after this experience, and what we can learn from our time in isolation that will lift both our horizons and those of others we interact with. And we need to look at how and where we can get support to help us achieve our aspirations and offer support to others.
Albert Einstein is noted as once saying “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Right now things are difficult, and things are uncertain. As it has been up to every member of our community to stop the spread of Covid-19, it will become up to every member of our community to emerge from its restrictions, not just to where we were, but to where we want to be.