‘Stop, listen, Papatūānuku is breathing’

PACIFIC PANDEMIC DIARY: By Sri Krishnamurthi, self-isolating in Auckland under New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Papatūānuku – earth mother is breathing,

The mere suggestion that you can see and hear tūī and kererū in Auckland was once a myth… but no longer as Covid-19 keeps the traffic at bay.

Even in Auckland you can now hear birds as clear as daylight as the air clears over New Zealand’s biggest city, reputed to be the largest Polynesian city in the world.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera coronavirus live updates – Europe death toll passes 100,000


The tūī, with a distinctive white throat tuft, is usually very vocal, with a complicated mix of tuneful notes interspersed with coughs, grunts, and wheezes. In flight, their bodies slant with the head higher than the tail, and their noisy whirring flight is interspersed with short glides.

And the kererū, or wood pigeon, is a large bird with iridescent green and bronze feathers on its head and a smart white vest. The noisy beat of its wings is a distinctive sound in our forest.

You don’t hear them normally in urban New Zealand, but the air has been so clean that  they are back, and many people have commented on hearing the birds chirping in their gardens.

That is because our earth mother, Papatūānuku, is breathing.

Celebrating silence
A video that celebrates the silence of our biggest city in the Covid-19 lockdown has become the biggest ever global hit on the Visit Auckland YouTube channel – 218,940 view at last count.

Papatūānuku is breathing, narrated by 11-year-old Manawanui Maniapoto Mills, pans across Auckland’s natural landscapes as human activity almost stops during the lockdown.

“Stop, listen, Papatūānuku, the earth mother, is breathing, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is still,” it begins.

“Out tūī, our kererū, now need not fight with the daily hum of our busy lifestyles.”

And at the end: “Dream, plan, and when the time is right, we welcome you, but for now listen, Papatūānuku is breathing.”

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) destination general manager Steve Armitage told The New Zealand Herald the video’s message was “designed to be simple: this is a time of rest; take a moment to appreciate the stillness and the beauty of our region”.

“We hope the video is encouraging for Kiwis entering their third week of lockdown,” he added.

Within just days of its release on social media, the video has amassed more than half a million views and generated the most engagement for ATEED.

It has been viewed by not only New Zealanders, but by people in Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Translated into French, Spanish
It has even been translated into French and Spanish by “inspired viewers”.

It is a haunting video that shows the best of New Zealand.

Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Pacific people in New Zealand have benefitted from the government’s Covid-19 support packages.

The Pasifika Medical Association through Pasifika Futures- the Whanau Ora commissioning agency for Pacific families – said nearly 7500 packages had been delivered to families since the lockdown was announced on 23 March.

Data to determine if community transmission of Covid-19 is occurring in New Zealand will be a big factor in tomorrow’s decision on whether to extend the level 4 lockdown, reports RNZ News.

At a media briefing yesterday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield reported nine new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. All were linked to existing cases.

There were now 18 people in hospital, including three in intensive care, with two in a critical condition and 1098 cases, while more than 4000 tests were processed in laboratories yesterday. Dr Bloomfield also confirmed a death that occurred in Invercargill last week was a Covid-19-related death, taking the total to 12.

17 cases in Fiji
Fiji going into the weekend had 17 cases. A 21-year-old who had been a travelling companion of a man who visited India to go to a religious festival who flagrantly disregarded all self-isolation rules has now infected several people.

Also going into the weekend, Papua New Guinea, which is ill-prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, had Prime Minister James Marape confirm they had five new cases taking the total to seven.

Guam had 135 cases and five deaths going into the weekend and the sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt had 615 positive cases.

Northern Marianas has 13 cases and two deaths, Tahiti has 55 cases and New Caledonia is still at 18.

In all going into the weekend there were 250 cases in the Pacific with seven deaths around the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders (RSF) is alarmed to learn that Indonesia’s police have been ordered to combat not only disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic but also criticism of the president and government.