KAWERAU District Council says it will need to make some tough and urgent discussions in the wake of Covid-19.
Already the council is adapting to the pandemic and the regulatory and services committee will meet via Zoom video call on Tuesday to discuss the burden of rates on residents at this time and the upcoming annual plan.
Council chief executive Russell George said the decisions and challenges facing Kawerau council 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 amount of stress and uncertainty facing Kawerau residents, the council wanted to balance the opportunity for residents to have input into the annual plan with the burden and safety restrictions of the Covid-19 level 4 alert status.
Another important item to be discussed in the short-term is next month’s upcoming rate bill coupled with the longer-term issue of next year’s rates.
Mr George said, as a small district, the Kawerau council relied on rates payments 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 while the Covid-19 pandemic was an evolving situation, face to face consultation on the annual plan would be “out of the question”.
He said there would be many probable solutions to the rates issue and people who might be financially impacted by Covid-19, but these would need to be talked through with the council first.
Some options other councils have approved include zero rates increases 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 with those as soon as it was able.
In the meantime, he reminds Kawerau residents that the best option to protect themselves and their whanau is 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.”