20 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Libraries, pools and recreation centres to close in Auckland for two weeks

2:03 pm on 20 March 2020

Libraries, pools and recreation centres in Auckland will close for two weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Making the announcement this afternoon, Mayor Phil Goff said the decision was made with regret, but it was both important and necessary.

The art gallery and Maritime Museum will also be closed for at least two weeks.

Goff said there is a risk and we need to be ahead of the curve in responding.

"Our 55 libraries across Auckland receive over 250,000 visits a week, while there are 200,000 visits a week to our swimming pools and leisure centres.

"Our main concern and our key priority has to be keeping people safe and doing what we can as an organisation to contain the spread of Covid-19."

He said with the share numbers coming through the libraries, purely social distancing wasn't going to work.

E-library services will be available for people during the two-week period.

"Our libraries are used by many many older people in the community but of course it's people who are in that older category who are vulnerable to Covid-19."

There will be no fines in a delay in returning books during the two weeks and no employees will lose their job, Goff said.

But he said employees may need to be redeployed to other areas of the council.

"This is about protecting the wider public but of course our wider priority is to protect those working for us."

While they are important services, they are not in the category of essential services, Goff said.

"We're working in unprecedented times... I'm proud of the fact that in our country we are being proactive."

He said council is flexible and may amend policies as time goes on.

The council was also reviewing its wider network of community facilities, including community centres, community art galleries and venues for hire, to ensure that from Monday these facilities only support classes, activities, programmes and events that allow for social distancing within government guidelines.

Closing down all public transport would bring the city to a halt and that's not desirable, Goff said/

The war memorial museum is not included in the closures, but Goff urges it to follow suit.

Wellington, Dunedin and New Plymouth councils say they have no immediate plans to shut all public recreation centres.

New Plymouth has shut two of its busiest facilities, Todd Energy Aquatic Centre and Puke Ariki, and Brooklands Zoo remains closed, following WOMAD.

Christchurch City Council will be soon be releasing information on its plans.

Last week, Auckland's Pasifika Festival was cancelled amid concerns about the risk of the virus being transmitted to the Pacific Islands by festival attendees.

Goff previously said the decision to cancel Pasifika was made after discussions with the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Samoan High Commissioner.

Ardern later announced that indoor gatherings of 100-plus people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 would be banned.

The Pasifika Festival was expected to draw 60,000 people at Western Springs.

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