25 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Invercargill council shuffles to protect councillors

1:51 pm on 25 March 2020

Invercargill's deputy mayor has taken the reins as the city's council takes a novel approach to keep business ticking during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt is 73 and the majority of the city's 12 councillors are also over 70 or immuno-compromised.

As a result, deputy mayor Toni Biddle has been made chair of a joint council committee while at-risk councillors isolate at home to keep safe.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Only one case of Covid-19 has been identified in Invercargill, but the council was preparing to put in place measures to keep staff and councillors safe while also operating essential services during the coming lockdown.

Biddle said that along with one other low-risk member she would physically hold meetings while others joined via video conferencing.

"Any decisions that can be made will be done so with the same quorum, everything still the same. It just protects our most vulnerable in our council from having to come in and be part of a meeting in person."

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The structure would remain in place as long as necessary during the shutdown, she said.

It was something councillors wanted to do to show they were leading from the front during this difficult time, she said.

Only about 10 staff were physically in the council's building as the rest had already moved to working from home.

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