Essential council services in South to keep going

Aaron Hawkins.
Aaron Hawkins.
Southern councils are reassuring communities that essential services will continue during New Zealand’s lockdown period.

While many councils were yesterday still working through what the new Level 4 restrictions would mean for them, they were confident services such as rubbish collection and water infrastructure would continue.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins urged people to stay connected as much as possible, but warned "we can’t be under any illusions, this isn’t going to be easy".

"This is going to be incredibly difficult, once the initial shock wears off," he said.

He asked people to be kind to each other, and to check in on elderly friends, family and neighbours in particular.

Mr Hawkins said all essential council services would continue during the lockdown period.

He was still trying to clarify which council staff would be considered essential under the Government’s new criteria.

Given the current economic situation, he confirmed he had asked council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose to consider taking a salary cut.

She had agreed, and would reduce her salary by 15% for the next six months. It would then be reviewed after that period.

Members of the council’s executive team had also agreed to a salary cut, he said.

Otago Museum, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, the Dunedin Chinese Gardens, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Forsyth Barr Stadium and the Edgar Centre are among Dunedin facilities closed until further notice.

Libraries and pools closed on Saturday.

The Otago Regional Council would continue to field customer inquiries via phone, social media and email.

The council meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled.

In a statement, chairwoman Marian Hobbs said it would continue to operate essential services, including public transport.

Jim Boult
Jim Boult
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult called on the community to take a breath, understand the latest announcement and calmly prepare for the four-week lockdown period.

“This is a time where humanity and kindness need to come to the fore. The hardest thing of all will be our ability to adapt, but we can and we will,” he said.

“Yes, some visitors may need to be locked down in your premises for four weeks,’’ he said.

"You will need to work through the implications of that with guests and hopefully some have planned for that outcome."

The council’s Emergency Operations Centre will operate through the lock down as will council services, many of which will occur remotely.

Other essential and core infrastructure services such as waste and recycling collections would continue as normal with the appropriate safety precautions in place for staff.

Sir Tim Shadbolt: "We've just been dumped in the caca more or less." Photo: ODT files
Sir Tim Shadbolt
nvercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said the situation was the "biggest challenge of all".

"We have been confronted by something that we have never faced before, and I think it is the great unknown that causes a lot of anxiety in the community.

"There is also a lot of sadness, of course, because so many people are dying and getting sick around the world.

"It is a tragedy, so we need to do what we can to give people support and strength to overcome this situation."

Deputy mayor Toni Biddle said the council was confident in its plan to manage the situation.

Its priority was the water and wastewater scheme, which she believed would work fine through the Covid-19 period.

Public transport would be available until further notice from the Ministry of Transport.

Rubbish and recycling collection would continue and the council was having a conversation with Powernet to guarantee power continuity during this time.

Southland Mayor Gary Tong urged the community to “share and care”.

“These are difficult times so we need to stay strong and support those around you.

Tim Cadogan
Tim Cadogan
Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan said while the Government’s announcement was not unexpected, it had come as a shock.

"We’ve got 48 hours to get ourselves sorted and then we’re going home for a month, that’s all there is to it.

"We will get through this."

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the council closed its office yesterday and was transitioning staff to working online from home.

“These are strange and difficult times, and it’s important that we remember to be kind to one another, follow the Government’s advice and stay at home.”

Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT
Gary Kircher
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the council would meet today and discuss details of a stimulus and support package announced last week.

The council has also allocated up to $2million from its disaster fund for the package.

"Although there has to be discussion and agreement on them, we will be considering such initiatives as decreasing or removing the penalties for late payment of rates, postponing payment of rates, potential partial or full remission of rates in extreme hardship situations and removal of parking meter fees," he said.

Oamaru Hospital was "ready to play its part", Mr Kircher said.

"The reality is, [Oamaru Hospital] can’t take a lot of intensive care cases — those will be dealt with in Dunedin.

"But to generally look after people and milder cases, I expect that they will be quite able to do that.

"For those [with Covid-19] who need hospital care, and that’s about 10%, a quarter of those would probably need to go to Dunedin."

Services

  • Council offices will be closed, and most staff will work from home.
  • Public facilities such as libraries and swimming pools are closed.
  • Dunedin’s bus system timetable will remain the same for now.
  • Essential services will be maintained.

— Additional reporting by Jared Morgan, Karen Pasco and Rebecca Ryan

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

I wouldn't count on it, but surely the rates rise will be deferred for now

"Given the current economic situation, he confirmed he had asked council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose to consider taking a salary cut", well that's a bit cheeky, why doesn't hawkins take a pay cut as well?, lead by example. One wonders if the 'council' is considering doing what the Waitaki council are doing ie rates freezes?, likely not would be my guess.

I didn't realize DCC had any essential services? They should just shut down. Nobody is looking to them for any answers. Someone explain to me why Bidrose makes more money than Ardern? She has a psychology background, not a bussiness background. Total waste of money!

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