Locals asked to look after each other

1:29 pm on 31 March 2020

Kindness can overcome the "weird" challenges set by the Covid-19 pandemic, Masterton district councillor and school principal Tim Nelson says.

Masterton district councillor and school principal Tim Nelson

Tim Nelson Photo: Supplied / Wairarapa Times-Age

His Lakeview primary school, in Masterton, closed its doors last Wednesday, ahead of the Level 4 alert for the pandemic.

District council offices also shut up shop last week, with staff working from home to manage essential services.

A few staff from Wairarapa's three district councils have returned to the council's Waiata House headquarters as part of the area's response to the outbreak.

Nelson said both school and council staff had been "phenomenal" as they looked to manage "a completely weird situation".

"From where I sit, I don't agree with everything people on the council might do, and I don't have the same opinions as other council members do.

"But what I do think is that everyone on the council and staff has been pretty amazing."

He said he thought council staff had a bit of thankless role at times.

"They're essential workers too. We at school get plenty of accolades but they probably won't get any at the end of the day.

"They have to be held accountable and the public needs to have input into things like Town Hall and Henley Lake. You don't want a situation where they aren't accountable. But sometimes, good things that happen aren't acknowledged."

Nelson said he had "an inkling something was coming" for the school, based on communication from the Ministry of Education about remote learning, and the community's capacity for home schooling.

"It seemed like teachers were like the people playing the violin on the Titanic while it was sinking. We were hearing all this information about what we needed to do in the community.

"The gym I go to were fantastic about setting up for distancing, with people more than 1.5m apart.

"Whereas at school, where children are sitting together, in assemblies you just can't have children 1.5m apart.

"It seemed a little bit contradictory, but it helps you understand, in terms of primary school teachers, how valuable and essential we are."

Schools are now on an early Easter break.

Even he, as school principal, only allowed back on the premises "in extreme circumstances".

As one of 13 siblings, he said he felt for large families in the current situation.

"If this had happened when I was a kid, with us all in the same house, that would have been pretty challenging.

"And I can imagine it would be pretty challenging for families with people in a relatively small space. And those are the people we need to consider.

"It's not easier being in each other's company, no matter how well you get on."

Nelson said the main piece of advice had was to be kind.

"For parents, don't put pressure on yourself.

"We have Lakeview School values. We constantly emphasise be kind to each other, be respectful, be excellent, be resilient and be respectful.

"Kindness is the one that stands out. If people are kind to each other, everything will be fine."

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs