Every year Kiwis keenly anticipate the Christmas and New Year break and the chance to enjoy summer with family and friends.
However, many of us feel as though we staggered to the finish line of 2020 after a year that often felt exhausting and never-ending.
Covid-19 has caused massive upheaval - to our lives and livelihoods. But I'm optimistic about 2021.
You need only talk to colleagues, friends or family overseas to realise how fortunate we are to live in a country where we can hang out with friends and families, go shopping, visit cafes and bars, and sit among thousands of other people watching music or cricket or the America's Cup. It's life as we used to know it, but we shouldn't take doing those things for granted.
But my optimism stems from what we Kiwis can achieve when life as normal is suspended, like it was in 2020.
Sceptics in other countries like to claim NZ's Covid-19 success story is attributable to our small size and situation. But a far bigger factor is our strong sense of community and willingness to do the right thing for each other
We came together to tackle the health challenges and we adapted how we live and work at short notice. We protected our families and helped support each other through lockdowns, lost jobs, isolation and anxiety.
We will be dealing with the economic fallout and mental health impacts for some time. But lockdown in its best moments delivered an unexpected respite from the relentlessness of modern life.
We lived more lightly. We spent less, we cooked more, some of us got more exercise and some of us spent more time with our families. As a country, we made a big, albeit short-term, dent in our environmental impact. Many of us have tried to embed these changes into our everyday lives.
There will be no shortage of challenges in the future. Two that I worry about are climate change and financial inclusion. Our immediate challenge as we head into 2021 is to ensure we're not leaving those neighbours or anyone else behind as we stage an economic recovery.
Some have benefitted strongly in the past few months. That's good, because it inspires confidence, which drives people to invest, employ and expand. We expect more sectors to benefit as the economy picks up again.
It is difficult to know where our economy will track in the coming year. We think that Covid-19 will remain a drag on activity in some sectors over 2021.
The local economy has certainly held up much better than expected on the back of supportive government policy, a resilient agricultural sector and strong domestic spending. That's helped to offset the missing contribution that normally comes from international visitors and students.
Population growth is also set to slow from around 2 per cent in recent years to just 0.5 per cent this year, because of a fall in net migration, which will see slightly slower growth in demand for goods and services.
As a result of these factors, our economists expect the unemployment rate to peak at around 6 per cent in the coming months, which is about the same level as during the 2009 recession, before improving towards 5 per cent in the following two years.
However, we can expect the recovery to gather strength as 2021 goes on. The banking sector is very strong, and Westpac is geared up to support all our customers, whether they're families, community groups, small businesses or large enterprises. As we evolve, our focus and our responsibility are to ensure everyone has the support that's right for them.
We have endeavoured to build connections, seek fresh perspectives and to collaborate and problem-solve in new ways. I'm sure I'm not alone in taking time this summer break to appreciate those moments, connections and opportunities that I may have taken for granted a year ago.
It's a time of year when the sun is shining and a beach, lake or river is never far away.
Happy holidays everybody.
David McLean, CEO, Westpac New Zealand Ltd