THEY'VE spent most of the year free to roam, while central Victorians have yo-yoed in and out of lockdowns.
But now Bendigonians in New Zealand are in the same situation to those at home ... literally at home.
Australia's neighbour is going through its first country-wide lockdown since its major six-week shut down in March and May of 2020, after an outbreak in Auckland.
Ex-Bendigonian David Chisholm has found himself living in Auckland, right near the centre of the current outbreak the nearby town of Devonport.
The founder of the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music relocated to New Zealand's largest city in January 2019, to teach at the University of Auckland.
The lockdown is almost nostalgic for Mr Chisholm. The country has only been at this level once before, for six weeks at the start of the pandemic.
Since then everything has been very relaxed, despite a few smaller, slightly less strict lockdowns in Auckland and Wellington.
But Mr Chisholm said New Zealanders had always known the feeling of safety was an illusion.
"It's been a strange experience, because you watch those lockdowns from here, at times you don't ring people because you don't want to tell them, 'Oh I just got back from a concert'," he said.
"You see the rest of the world going through this very challenging time, but... we were living in a vestige of a pre-COVID world."
Despite the lockdown Mr Chisholm said he was doing fine, working from home with his partner and cat around.
Mr Chisholm said clear communication from the New Zealand government, and realistic messaging had really helped.
He said New Zealand's strong sense of community also made a difference, because people knew they were not just doing it for themselves, but for everybody.
This side of the Tasman, Bendigo-based New Zealander Bradley Thomas said the lockdown was "obviously not great news" for his family and friends at home.
For the past few months he's sat back and watched - almost a bit jealous - as they enjoyed the freedom of a COVID-free life.
But Mr Thomas said it was like Australia: when you've had a fair bit of normality, it was "a bit of a kick in the pants" to have it taken away.
Mr Thomas said reaction from family and friends in New Zealand had been mixed. He said it was a surprise to have such a good run for such a long time for some, but also a disappointment.
He said hopefully it would stay a short, sharp set of restrictions.
"I suppose they've really seen the benefits of a harsh lockdown, and how quickly they've been back to get back to normality," Mr Thomas said.
"Hopefully it's short term and it doesn't turn into one of these rolling lockdowns."
Former Bendigo physio Elliott Diamond has felt almost guilty at times until now.
Mr Diamond moved to Lake Taupo on New Zealand's north island in March, after four years in Bendigo.
He hasn't worn a mask since his two weeks quarantine in Auckland.
Since then he's watched friends in Victorian go through three lockdowns in quick succession, feeling almost guilty that he's been able to live freely.
Now Mr Diamond is among the millions in New Zealand confined to their homes, allowed out only to exercise in their local area, and for essential supplies.
The country's strict level four restrictions mean even takeaway businesses are closed.
Mr Diamond is seeing only priority patients, by phone or video link.
There's almost a sense of deja vu for him. When he heard about the first case and the lockdown from a patient, his heart sunk.
"I was pretty shocked, because it's a big step to go from [level] one to four with one case," he said.
"I was kind of like, 'Nooo', because I've got plans for the weekend, and I don't want to work from home'."
Mr Diamond said it had been strange to see empty streets walking around Lake Taupo, a smallish town about three hours south of Auckland.
But he said he saw the sense in New Zealand's stringent response, because its situation meant it could eradicate the virus.
"It can be done, and it might be better for the economy longer term, than if we carry along," he said.
"I've just noticed that compliance is not great in Australia, I'm thankful that I'm in a place that does the right thing a bit more readily."
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