There is no rule book for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. It is an unprecedented situation that is evolving every day. First and foremost, Council is taking the advice of the Ministry of Health, which is leading New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.
At the time of writing we have moved quickly from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 4 and a State of Emergency has been declared. Lockdown has been put in place and we are getting to grips with the unknown new “normal.” Everyone has to do their part to save lives.
Essential Council services continue including storm water infrastructure repair and maintenance and water treatment, animal welfare management, biosecurity and hazard monitoring. As of 24 March 2020, Auckland’s kerbside rubbish and recycling are considered essential services and will continue as usual. The inorganic collection has been postponed. Wet wipes and other hygiene products, should be bagged and placed in rubbish bins never down the toilet. Over 300 Council facilities have closed including recreation centres, pools, community centres.
Auckland Libraries e-lending services like audiobooks, video streaming services and learning databases like Lynda.com continue to be available for free and will be extended. Library fines for overdue books have been suspended and gym memberships are on hold. Our parks and reserves are always open for recreation, but be mindful to keep physical distances. Please keep children off equipment as playgrounds are closed. More COVID-19 information can be found on the front page of the Auckland Council website.
Road maintenance undertaken by Auckland Transport is considered an essential service so will continue during the lockdown. However, this is being limited to only that maintenance required to keep the network safe and operational during this period.
It’s important our communities come together to support each other. I really appreciate one of my neighbours taking the initiative to ensure we all have each other’s contact information so she was able to set up a street WhatsApp chat group. As the homeless and other vulnerable groups will be particularly impacted, homeless agencies are working very closely with Council on ensure accommodation is provided with showers, food, and other amenities available in ways that manage the risk.
Auckland Council has unanimously approved emergency measures to ensure effective governance of the city while it is in lockdown. A temporary ‘supercommittee’ has been established made up of the whole Governing Body to assume the functions and power of all committees except for the Audit and Risk Committee. Meetings will occur weekly by audio-visual link. We also agreed to establish a COVID-19 contingency fund of $22.5 million for any urgent expenditure required to respond to the pandemic or its impacts.
The number one priority at the moment is public health. In the next month or so we’ll have a better idea of the impact on Council finances, what additional support can be provided and ability to deliver projects that are in the pipeline as we move to finalise the Annual Budget 20/21 by 1 July.
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