SPEECH: Green Party Co-leader James Shaw – Ministerial statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

The scale of what we face right now is unlike anything we have ever seen before. Overcoming it is our common purpose.

Which is why, on behalf of the Marama Davidson and the Green Party, I would like to start by associating myself with the statement made by the Minister of Civil Defence, Peeni Henare.

Mr. Speaker, most of us, I’m sure, remembers the people that walked alongside us, looked out for us, and cared for us at different moments in our lives. 

From today every one of us can do that for each other.

Most people will know by now that, tonight, we move together as a nation to Alert Level Four. In other words, everything we do from now onwards is essential for protecting the people we love.

Mr. Speaker, the New Zealanders at home today preparing themselves and their families for the weeks ahead, will occupy a unique place in our nation’s history.

For this is a moment when every one of us, as politicians, as parents, as friends, as New Zealanders make clear just what it is that we value more than anything else.

It is a moment that generations of students and scholars will study for what it says about how we, as New Zealanders, care for one another and the actions we are willing to take for the good of everyone.

It is a job for all of us to make sure future historians are able to tell a story of a nation whose people knew that, together, by following simple rules and taking simple actions, they could protect others, and shape the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Like everyone who works in this place, I came here to change lives, to work for change, to build a better future for the generations that follow us.

I want kids growing up today to inherit from us a world that is better off for what we did. Mr. Speaker, I never would have thought that I would stand here and say that the best way to make that happen is to temporarily suspend politics as we currently know it.

But it is. It is the right thing to do. For the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. 

The step we have taken today, Mr. Speaker, though extraordinary, is in keeping with what New Zealanders sent us here to do: to protect their wellbeing, keep them safe, and provide support to those who need it most.

When this Government walked through the door two and half years ago, we made a promise to Aotearoa that we would not shy away from what the future demanded of us, but work to shape it.

Over the last few weeks the crisis of COVID-19 has challenged us like nothing we could have imagined. And from the outset, we have been absolutely clear about the need for quick, decisive, and comprehensive action. 

Delay could have been deadly. 

What we have seen around the world shows that lives are lost or saved depending on a government’s ability to understand risk and its propensity to act for the common good. 

We have been clear about the risk, acted rapidly to contain it, and put in place a range of measures to support those most affected.  

Declaring a national emergency is the necessary next step.

We can now reassure people up and down the country that all of our shared resources will be directed at efforts to solve this and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

But, Mr. Speaker, you know as well as anyone, that the challenge we face cannot be solved by declaring a national emergency alone.

It will be overcome by all of us working together, by New Zealanders in every home, every community and every business sticking to the rules we have set.

Mr. Speaker, like others, some of the most important people in my life - my friends, my colleagues and my family - are among those most at risk.

Like every New Zealander, there are people in my life and who I love that are elderly. 

I have colleagues who come to work and dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others whilst managing their own compromised immune systems. 

I have friends who live their lives with long-term medical conditions.  

Never before have my conversations with these people needed to start by making sure they have not left their home - and checking that they have what they need to get through a period of isolation. 

Never before have I had to say to them that if we are going to laugh together, celebrate and comfort each other in the future, then they must not be in physical contact with others. 

Over the last week or two, thousands of New Zealanders would have been having the exact same conversations with those closest to them. 

And, Mr. Speaker, I am confident I am speaking on behalf of those people when I commend the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for their leadership throughout this extraordinary time.

Together with the support of Government Ministers from all Parties, they have reassured a nation that we were ready to do what it takes, even before this global crisis found its way to our shores.

The Prime Minister has responded with compassion and absolute clarity and thousands of lives will be saved as a result. 

I would also like to thank the leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges for agreeing to chair a committee set up to scrutinise the Government’s response to COVID 19.  

He has an extremely important job in the coming weeks; to keep an essential part of our democracy going, to make sure the voices of all New Zealanders are heard when they look at whether the Government is getting its response right, or not.   

I hope others will join me in saying that every time the new committee meets, the politics of its members must be left at the door. 

Every question they ask, every new suggestion they make must be focused on making sure that we are doing what’s right for the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to thank those who are working together in a safe and responsible way to support those most in need. 

Our nurses, pharmacists, doctors, midwives, paramedics, medical laboratory scientists, kaiāwhina workers, social workers, aged care and community workers, and caregivers more generally.

Our police officers, customs officials, and people providing emergency housing for others, our customs officers.

Our food suppliers and delivery drivers, supermarket staff, and dairy owners.

Thank you to every one of you for being there for us when we need it most. But, the truth is, Mr. Speaker, whilst these people are on the frontline, they are not the only ones helping to keep us safe and well.

Businesses up and down the country are taking incredible steps to make sure their staff and their whānau are safe and cared for.

Because work goes on, Mr. Speaker. Even if there are a few more children and pets sighted in video meetings.

We will beat this thing because of these sorts of actions that are being taken by people all over New Zealand… 

People staying at home, shopping normally, and washing their hands.

It is these small actions that, together, will make the difference.

Actions that mean we can get back into our communities and workplaces sooner, that get us back doing the things we love, like gathering with friends or taking the family out for the day. 

New Zealanders can be the real leaders here by sticking to the rules the government has put in place and looking out for each other.

Mr. Speaker, I trust the compassion and thoughtfulness of New Zealanders to do the right thing. I trust that the best of Aotearoa New Zealand can get to work to beat this.  

So to everyone: keep well, look out for each other, and keep your distance physically, but not socially – call people, connect with friends online, message colleagues to make sure they’re ok.

Now more than ever we need each other.   

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