Our Wellington

News | 25 March 2021

One year on: A look back at lockdown in the capital

A year ago today, life as we knew it was flipped onto its head.

COVID-19 had made its way to Aotearoa, the borders were shut, and a national lockdown to help stop the spread of the virus was announced.

We rewind the clock and look back at some of the highs and lows of Alert Level 4 in Wellington.

Wellington Harbour, doused in orange light as the sun comes up, looking out from the lagoon over the waterfront bridge towards Matiu/Somes Island.

On Wednesday 25 March 2020, a State of National Emergency was declared and the entire nation was ordered home to self-isolate.

Motorways were empty, streets had no people, and shops were shut for business.

Everyone had to stick to their own ‘bubble’.

‘Be Kind, stay home, save lives’ became New Zealand’s mantra.

In Pōneke, while the CBD was deserted, the heart of the city continued to beat on.

An empty Wellington street during lockdown.

In true Absolutely Positively Wellington fashion, Wellingtonians banded together in spirit, supporting one another through a challenging and unprecedented time.

From lockdown day one, teddy bears popped up in windows and gardens to bring smiles to whānau on their neighbourhood walks.

People enjoyed valuable time with family and discovered the local parks and reserves on their backdoor steps, which saw an increase in the use of our green and open spaces.

The capital's business community found innovative ways to share their products with customers and initiatives like WOAP’s At Yours and WellingtonNZ’s #LoveLocal were created so people could continue to support Welly companies, shops, and producers during trying times.

People reached out to their neighbours, and volunteers worked hard to ensure no corners of society were forgotten.

With a skeleton crew and support from the Council, Kaibosh Food Rescue saved food from ending up in landfill and redistributed it to 32 charities that operated during the lockdown – providing kai to soup kitchens, marae, foodbanks, residential facilities and other essential social service providers.

Wellington Student Army ran errands including shopping for vulnerable residents and helped with Meals on Wheels runs. The Compassion Soup Kitchen provided take-away meals for whānau in need and prepared meals for the Wellington Night Shelter.

A lone postie walks down an empty Wellington laneway.

Thanks to 38 new self-contained Te Paapori units made available on a private property, some of the city’s homeless community were able to get off the street and self-isolate in a safe space.

DCM staff continued their important work supporting the city's rough sleepers.

The Owhiro Bay community banded together when powerful waves pummelled the south coast, resulting in some residents and pets being evacuated from their damaged homes. Evacuees were given accommodation and were supported by Wellington City Council’s Community Services team.

For the first time in history, we commemorated Anzac Day apart.

It was a hard, uncertain time for many of us, with businesses facing an enormous challenge just to survive, and Wellingtonians having to dig deep into their resilience reserves as we faced weeks at home away from family, friends and colleagues. 

Wellington City Council held it's first-ever meeting on Zoom, with councillors approving a Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan with immediate effect. The plan included initiatives such as rates deferrals and freezing of charges, aiming to soften the economic hardship on businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic.

The waves measured up to 5.5 metres.

The Mayor, Councillors and the Council's executive leadership team took a voluntary pay reduction for the remainder of 2020, freeing up $340,000 for community groups to help the city back on its feet. Support was also given to some Wellington music venues and the arts community, and a City Recovery Fund was approved.

Iconic events, like the 2020 World of Wearable Art, were left with little choice but to cancel, with the promise of coming back bigger and brighter in 2021.

But thankfully we weren’t entirely without arts and culture during lockdown with Royal New Zealand Ballet and NZ Symphony Orchestra performing live in our living rooms, and CubaDupa and local musicians hosting special virtual events.

The lockdown also brought with it reports of increased native wildlife in the capital, including a rare karearea spotted on Lambton Quay.

We love Wellington.

Kiwis played their part by staying at home, helping to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. However, there are many lockdown heroes out there – our frontline essential workers, who ensured our city continued to run smoothly.

Medical professionals, supermarket staff, emergency services, road workerscity cleaners, and many more, ehara koe i a ia – thank you.

While this strange time presented many unforeseen challenges, Wellingtonians demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness, creativity and kindness.

The city united and its people rallied to support one another, putting the ‘we’ into Wellington.

Visit Archives Online to see a comprehensive timeline of COVID-19-related events in Wellington.