ORC to decide on meeting format when Omicron hits

Otago regional councillors will meet today to decide how it will hold meetings in the face of the looming Omicron outbreak.

The council is expecting as many as 35% of its staff members will be unable to come in to the office at the peak of an Omicron outbreak.

This would include both those too sick to work and those who are infected and isolating, but well enough to work remotely.

Councillors will meet this afternoon virtually in an extraordinary meeting to decide how the council will conduct its business under the Red setting.

Meeting in person at the council’s chambers is not possible in line with the council’s operation plan under Red, which allows for a maximum of 50% occupancy in its own offices.

Three options will be before councillors in the meeting.

The first would involve council meetings and workshops moving to an online-only format.

Those councillors who live in areas with unstable internet connections could still travel to an ORC office, where they would be installed in a meeting room alone to dial in to the meeting.

Another option, which the agenda indicated had been suggested by some councillors, would be to find a non-ORC venue in which to hold the meetings in person.

This would allow them to technically sidestep their own rules on the maximum occupancy in venues they own.

However, the cost of venue hire would be an unbudgeted expense, and meeting in person would heighten the risk of councillors and staff being exposed to the virus.

The third option is a compromise between the two extremes, and would involve a maximum of six councillors attending meetings in the chambers, the remainder to attend virtually.

No more than 50% of staff members could attend in person either, to ensure they met their occupancy rules.