Traffic and takeaways: readers on New Zealand's loosened lockdown

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We asked Guardian readers about their experiences as New Zealand entered level 3 of its coronavirus lockdown

I went back to work on Tuesday. It was exciting to start the day with a sense of purpose after five weeks of time melting into itself. It was a little discombobulating to dust off my clothes, boots and tool belt, and hunt out my bag and lunch box. It was so nice to be in my car, music turned up and travelling fast. I was nearly skipping when I got to work. It was exciting to see my work colleagues – we are a small team of three and we spend long hours working together, arguing and laughing. The first day was very physical – ripping out a wire fence, moving a cut-down tree – it’s going to take at least two weeks for my body to get used to the work again. Kylie Toka, fencer, Marton, Rangetikei

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‘I was nearly skipping when I got to work’

I went back to work on Tuesday. It was exciting to start the day with a sense of purpose after five weeks of time melting into itself. It was a little discombobulating to dust off my clothes, boots and tool belt, and hunt out my bag and lunch box. It was so nice to be in my car, music turned up and travelling fast. I was nearly skipping when I got to work. It was exciting to see my work colleagues – we are a small team of three and we spend long hours working together, arguing and laughing. The first day was very physical – ripping out a wire fence, moving a cut-down tree – it’s going to take at least two weeks for my body to get used to the work again. Kylie Toka, fencer, Marton, Rangetikei

‘A juvenile humpback whale joined us in marking the special day’

The sun had not even risen and my Kiwi husband was already down at the beach plunging into the cold water. Much to his disappointment, most ocean activities were prohibited in level 4, but the first day of level 3 in Wellington saw a glorious day of sunshine, no wind and still waters. Everyone flocked to the harbour to take up their preferred water-sport; kayaking, paddle-boarding, diving, snorkelling, fishing – everyone was either in or beside the harbour. Even a juvenile humpback whale swam in to join us in marking the special day. Sarah Keating, Wellington

‘I experienced a snapshot of what the New Zealand coast must have been like in the 18th century’

Xand Blee and the 4kg snapper he caught on his first sea kayaking trip since New Zealand eased its lockdown restrictions. Photograph: Coco Blee

I was so excited about getting back in my sea fishing kayak that I woke up at 3am and waited for the dawn. My fishing trip did not disappoint. The fish were virtually jumping into the kayak; kahawai nibbled at the bottom of the boat, and clouds of jack mackerel swirled and glistened. I dropped my line and after one minute the kayak lurched to the side – I’d got something big. The rod buckled and snapped in two. I was about to cut the line but decided to try and pull it in by hand – a beautiful 4kg snapper emerged from the depths. I’ve read stories from the time of Captain Cook and how the fish were so plentiful. I think I experienced a snapshot of what the coast of New Zealand must have been like in the 18th century. Xand Blee, Waiheke Island

‘People couldn’t even wait until the end of lockdown to jump in their cars’

Goodbye to the reduced air and noise pollution levels and the associated health benefits. I was really enjoying the clean air, blissful silence and, for the first time, seeing the water in the estuaries reflecting other colours than dirty brown. But those enjoyments were short lived. People couldn’t even wait until the end of lockdown to jump in their cars. On Friday there was so much traffic you could smell the pollution. Now in level 3, it seems that every man and his dog are in their cars, and you can hear the boy racers speeding on the roads, especially at night. I have already witnessed two incidents of road rage on my daily walk. In level 4 you could see whole families out cycling, but in just two days the motorists have intimidated them off the roads. Anonymous

‘I hope we don’t lose birdsong in a rush to return to normal’

Hanmer Springs on New Zealand’s South island during the coronavirus level 4 lockdown. Photograph: Lorna Davies

When the lockdown was eased, it felt as though our town was waking up and stretching after a long sleep. A cafe was buzzing as people returned for their caffeine fix and they had to move the tables outside to remind people that it was takeaway only. The quiet hillside walks we have been taking, almost in complete solitude, were suddenly populated with people laughing and chatting. Vans and cars tripled overnight with tradies ready to carry out maintenance on rentals and holiday homes, and overdue jobs for locals. In the meantime, the native birds sang their hearts out in a backdrop that I hope we don’t lose in a rush to return to normal – whatever that may look like. Lorna Davies, Hanmer Springs

‘Tamaki Drive was a sight for sore eyes’

Katie Riley enjoys the end of New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown on Mission Bay in Auckland. Photograph: Katie Riley

The first thing that was different was the noise. For weeks, I woke up to complete silence, like a Sunday morning, but more intense. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, so the increase in noise is not dramatic, but it is there, a dull background throbbing. I did a few hours of work, cleaned all the living areas, then the call of the beach got to me. I got in my car and drove to Mission Bay. Tamaki Drive, which has to be one of the more scenic city roads anywhere in the world, was a sight for sore eyes; the ocean, the city skyline, the boats, Rangitoto Island and freedom. I drove with the windows down, music blaring, and swore to myself that I would never take such simple pleasures for granted again. Katie Riley, Auckland

‘It was bizarre to see so many people out and about’

Our bubble went to the beach for the first time since before lockdown. It struck all of us how bizarre it was to see so many people out and about. We had become used to it just being the three of us. I’m not sure if a person can develop agoraphobia this quickly, but I definitely feel that gaining back our confidence in public spaces and trusting that those around you are not an immediate threat to your health and wellbeing, are going to be some of the biggest long-term mental challenges we’ll face as we slowly head back to “normal” life. Alice Morrison, Dunedin

‘It is a relief to have customers again’

A contactless drop-off to Marie Rhodes’s framing studio in Tauranga, North Island. Photograph: Marie Rhodes

The relaxation of lockdown to level 3 means I can allow contactless pickup and drop-off of work to my business. I altered my website so people can “book” the time they will be here, to avoid multiple people being on the premises at once. It is a relief to have customers again, but it is slow going. People seem to prefer to err on the side of caution and stay home still – I’ve not had a rush of work coming in. Marie Rhodes, self-employed picture framer, Tauranga

‘We are in danger of losing all we worked for’

The messaging here has been clear and the level 4 lockdown saw generally good compliance from the public. Yesterday, however, reminded me how delicate all of this is. I popped to the pharmacy, as I have had to each week during level 4, and it was clear as soon as I pulled to the end of my road that the traffic was more like a normal Saturday afternoon than a Tuesday morning during lockdown. The queue for the McDonald’s drive-thru opposite the pharmacy snaked back towards the motorway, a pattern which seems to have been followed across the country. We are in danger now of losing all that we worked for. Chris Smith, Auckland

‘I felt like the whole lockdown had been a strange dream’

Daryl French outside a cafe serving takeaway coffees in central Wellington, North Island. Photograph: Daryl French

I live in the centre of Wellington. It was always a noisy area, but since the lockdown I had become accustomed to the quiet of the city centre. I had forgotten about the lifting of restrictions until I was awoken by the clattering of shutter doors from the appliance shop outside. I decided to go out for a flat white and it was almost overwhelming outside; I forgot to look before crossing the street and almost walked into traffic. The amount of people around made me feel anxious and I felt like the whole lockdown had been a strange dream. It was a beautiful sunny day and everyone seemed to be in great spirits, but I decided to go back to the bubble to finish my coffee. Daryl French, Wellington

This will be a greater adjustment than the initial lockdown

It is noisy again - the kiwis do love a power tool, usually early in the morning – and the hope you had that people would be kinder and more relaxed already seems to be dissipating. My local village was bustling again; people queuing for the ubiquitous coffee (the 2m rule semi-ignored), cars becoming impatient with those crossing the road, not so many smiles and “hellos”. For me this will be a greater period of adjustment than the initial lockdown; you had “permission” to be slow, quiet, there were no social expectations, you didn’t have to wash your hair, wear make-up, plan your day, but already I feel the undercurrent of this reappearing and, for me, that will be hard. Jennifer Clements, Auckland


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