The first government response to COVID in March 2020 was based on a recommendation from an “expert” who said “we have used a relatively simple model, which effectively treats New Zealand as one big city where anyone has the chance of infecting anyone else in the country” Lock down everyone everywhere, even though the virus had a single point of entry (Auckland International Airport) and was transmitted by what might be called degrees of separation – meaning it was more likely have an outbreak in a Samoan church in Mangere (because its churchgoers would include people who worked at the airport or MIQ) than a sheep station in South Island.

However, eventually the government realised the side effects of national lockdown were having far greater adverse effects, thus national lockdowns have been superseded by alternative measures. Despite the moving target, the basic lesson learned from the middle ages remains valid:

If a bubble is necessary, better to lock the gates and allow the internal local economy and society to continue to operate.  

What’s the problem?


This is how NZ responded to the pandemic. It closed the economy.

It had to do this because it has a transport-based economy.


We all know the effects; they don’t have to be repeated here. But what is extraordinary is how in the aftermath, the country seems not to have learned the most obvious lesson. In order to ensure health and safety, the government had to deprive people of social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

So why is to charging ahead with plans to build thousands of new transport-based homes? Why is it funding transport projects to kickstart the economy? It’s like the smoker going back to cigarettes after chemo.

Locking people in their homes for months at a time is not socially sustainable. Paying out billions to keep people from being laid off is not economically sustainable. The first time, the public accepts it, the same as they accept the change and deprivation during wartime. But a government that allows it to happen a second time will find much lower acceptance. The voters will decide those in power are not doing their job.


How a Market Town solves it


In medieval Europe, Market Towns had gates, and during the Black Death, a pandemic that killed 30-50% of its population, they closed the town gates. They hired mercenaries and did not let anyone pass in or out. Food supplies were contactless. Wagons of food were brought in, left and then collected by the town folk.

Within the town gates, life continued as normal. People bought and sold, the economy kept working. People socialised, enjoyed each other’s company and lived normal lives.

In modern society, town walls and gates are not built to protect from marauding hordes, because we no longer have invading armies. But that does not obviate the value of town walls and gates. In the Market Town the walls are to protect the greenbelt from invasive species, to keep children safe and enable those suffering dementia to wander without becoming lost.

However post-Covid lesson shows how the Market Town layout can enable a whole town to become a bubble, and within it, if necessary, each of the 20 side-by-side villages can become sub-bubbles to coin a word. In the event of a necessary lockdown, the town closes its gates to all visitors, and provides quarantine housing in the greenbelt to all returning residents. Delivery trucks continue as normal – driving to the freight depot where the driver stays in the cab while the goods are unloaded – contactless.

This means that, with the exception of the visitor industry, the town’s local economy operates normally. Cafes, shops, schools all remain open and people go to work, same as always.

In the event a virus slips through, the 20 side-by-side villages are designed to be sealed as sub-bubbles. If someone becomes ill, they can be quarantined in specially-made mobile homes in the greenbelt and the village sealed.