Major decisions for Kawerau in wake of Covid-19

2:59 pm on 10 April 2020

Kawerau District Council says it will need to have some tough and urgent discussions in the wake of Covid-19.

Kawerau District Council

Kawerau District Council Photo: Charlotte Jones / LDR

Already the council is adapting to the pandemic, and its regulatory and services committee will meet via Zoom on Tuesday to discuss the rates burden on residents at this time and the upcoming annual plan.

Council chief executive Russell George said the decisions and challenges facing Kawerau were the same as those facing many other councils in New Zealand.

He said the network between council chief executives had provided a good forum for discussion and potential solutions.

Some of these decisions include the timeframe for the annual planning process and the level of community consultation.

Under the Local Government Act, if an annual plan does not differ significantly from its long-term plan, a council is not required to consult the community on its annual plan.

Mr George said, given the stress and uncertainty facing residents, the council wanted to balance the opportunity for them to have their say on the annual plan with the burden and safety restrictions of the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.

Another important item in the short-term would be next month's upcoming rates bill, coupled with the longer-term issue of next year's rates.

Mr George said, as a small district, his council relied on rates to provide services to the community. The council would need to consider options to assist those facing financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said face-to-face consultation on the annual plan would be "out of the question" while the pandemic continued to be an evolving situation

There would be many probable solutions to the rates issue and how to help people financially impacted by the lockdown, but these would need to be talked through with the council first.

Some options other councils have approved include rates freezes and rates holidays.

Mr Campbell said every council was in the same boat.

"We need to keep the work going and the momentum on the projects we have already started. That's what will help the town recover. We are luckier than most in that we still have significant funds in the bank."

Some of these projects, such as the lifestyle village in Porritt Glade, have been stalled by the month-long lockdown, but Mr Campbell said council would recommence those as soon as it was able.

In the meantime, he reminded Kawerau residents that the best option to protect themselves and their whānau was to stay home.

"We appreciate it is an uncertain time and the road ahead is uncharted," he said.

"But, for the safety of our people, many of whom are older, please do stay home and socialise only with those within your bubble.

"Kawerau people are resilient and strong and we can unite against this disease if we work together."

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