Main streets back to life

by Andy Bryenton

Thursday’s most vibrant indicator of a post-Covid-19 economic resurgence didn’t come from the revelations of support in the nation’s budget, but instead from the sight of traffic, queues and shoppers aplenty in the main street of Dargaville.

Business owners who may have been worried about a slow uptake to new trading conditions at level two have had their minds put somewhat at ease by the enthusiasm of locals, who have been denied the opportunity to shop and browse for the past six weeks. While safety precautions were in place such as hand sanitiser and contact tracing stations, the urge to re-engage with the local economy was apparent. 

That is the critical time for recovery. With big-box retailers also opening in our main centres, it could be all too easy to indulge in spending out of town for things readily available in our main streets. It’s with this in mind that advocates of Kaipara commerce, such as the Dargaville Community Development Board, are continuing to ramp up the visibility and presence of their buy local campaigns, encouraging investment in small business and the small-town amenities that we have not been able to fully enjoy for more than a month. 

Certainly, the will to appreciate some ‘retail therapy’, the need to stock up on items unavailable during lockdown, and the simple pleasure of ordering a hot take out dinner are all there. It’s time to consider how best to turn that disposable income and desire for novelty and change into a boost for the places where we live, instead of a bonus for foreign CEOs and shareholders. The big thing to do this week is ask the question; ‘can I get it locally?’ If you’re unsure, ask, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Many of the small stores in your hometown are backed up by huge supply infrastructure and can source far more than what fits on the shelf.

Remember, too, that even buying a single meal or a small item locally is a vote of confidence. It will help reassure business owners that the world is still spinning the right way and that they can count on an economic rebound, meaning less unemployment and more opportunities.