The new appreciation of previously dismissed types of work may be short lived, and their ongoing fight for a living wage is certainly not won. However, this crisis has opened a space in which broader conversations about the value of the work of someone like Rose may become unavoidable. If the lessons of these hotels are to be translated to national politics, it is that we cannot afford to return to the pre-COVID economy that tolerated people like Rose not receiving a living wage and rough sleepers lining Auckland Queen Street while warm rooms and homes sit empty.
Anthropologists have long acknowledged that ownership is a far more complex phenomenon than it seems at first. What on the surface appears to be a relationship between you and an object is actually a relationship between you, the object and everyone else. To borrow David Graeber’s example: “when one buys a car one is not really purchasing the right to use it so much as the right to prevent others from using it”.