Update - Monday 17 August 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

The Auckland region (Auckland Council area) remains at Alert Level 3 until 11:59 pm Wednesday 26 August and the rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
The General Election date has been delayed by 4 weeks to 17 October 2020.

Leadership in our communities

We are conscious this is a rapidly moving situation and many of you may start to face unique challenges for your community. Your communities will look to you for leadership in these cases.

We know you will take all advice or guidance from the Ministry of Health and national direction regarding the current COVID-19 Alert Levels into consideration while making your leadership decisions.

We trust you will treat information provided to you in your role as community leaders in confidence. The Response Unit will work to provide you with rapid guidance and key messages on issues we are facing nationally, which you can tailor to your local communities.

As you may be aware, misinformation and disinformation around COVID-19 is circulating online. Misinformation causes alarm and confusion and, where possible we would appreciate leaders encouraging the public to use trusted government channels to source their information from.

Please continue to provide calm, compassionate leadership to your communities.

The Rates Rebate (Statutory Declarations)

The Rates Rebate (Statutory Declarations) Act 2020 was enacted on 6 August 2020. The Act amends the Rates Rebate Act 1973 to require the Secretary for Local Government to approve the form for applications to the rates rebate scheme and the method of verification required for the application.

Due to uncertainty about the date the legislation would pass, for the 2020/2021 rating year the Secretary for Local Government has approved both the current form (with the statutory declaration verification method) and a new form with a signed statement replacing the statutory declaration. This prevents the risk of an application being made in the wrong form, as either is acceptable this rating year.

The new form should be available online within the next few weeks and in hard copy by the end of the month. Additionally, the modification order to the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 remains in force while the epidemic notice under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 remains in force.

What this means in practice is:

  • The current forms with the statutory declaration are valid and can continue to be used throughout the rating year;
  • Applicants can continue to apply using those forms, and the council can take the statutory declarations either in person (subject to alert level restrictions) or remotely in accordance with the modification order;
  • There will be a new form which doesn’t require a statutory declaration available soon;
  • Both application methods (statutory declaration and the new form) will be valid throughout the rating year.

Foreign Nationals Support Programme: messages and milestones

The Assistance to Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme (also called Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri by New Zealand Red Cross(NZRC)) formally began on 1 July.

Read more about the week 7 Dashboard (PDF. 739) based on data up to midnight Wednesday 12 August. This dashboard is unclassified – please feel free to share with your colleagues.

With the recent change in COVID-19 Alert levels, NZRC have fully reviewed the service delivery and will be able to continue to provide the same level of service to ensure foreign nationals who are eligible and experiencing hardship continue to receive support.

DIA are working with NEMA and other agencies within the Caring for Communities welfare stream to ensure close alignment with other support and key messages being provided to foreign nationals.

In addition, we are also encouraging returning applicants to: reach out to their consulates regarding repatriation opportunities; engage with travel agents on commercial flight opportunities, and explore how they can support themselves.

Recovery Reference Group

The Recovery Reference Group met on Friday 7 August. The next Reference Group meeting will be held on the 28th of August.

In this meeting the Ministry for the Environment attended to speak about their role within the Jobs for Nature programme and discuss local government’s role in the programme implementation.

Ministry for the Environment Recovery Presentation

Martin Workman, Deputy Secretary- Sustainable Land Use Delivery for the Ministry for the Environment attended the Reference Group to give a high-level over-view of the current progress happening within the jobs for nature programme.

The Jobs for Nature programme is made up of a number of funding pools totalling around $1.3b, made available through Budget 2020 as part of the Governments COVID-19 recovery programme.  Jobs for nature is a multi-agency programme, with agencies assigned funding for different aspects. This includes:

  • $500m for the Department of Conservation (DoC).

  • $35m to Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) as part of their 1 Billion Trees programme, for establishing native trees and riparian planting.
  • $40m to the Provincial Growth Fund (through MBIE) for the fencing of water ways and riparian planting.

Working with local government

Jobs for Nature is working on bringing central government funding into local projects that get real results on the ground. MfE and other agencies are looking to use the Jobs for Nature programme to build enduring long-term partnerships with Local Government, Treaty Partners and regional stakeholders.

MfE’s Jobs for Nature programme in action

In action, some of the programme will be expanding existing projects, and also looking for new projects and approaches. Some of funding managed by MfE has been allocated to “quick start” projects- initiatives that can be put into action on the ground quickly.

MfE have also announced a $55m Freshwater Improvement Fund. You can view this announcement on the MfE website. The Te Mana o Te Wai fund will be open for applications in late 2020.

MfE are looking to allocate these funds to innovative grass/flax root approaches to water improvement. These funds will be open to groups who would not normally have access to this type of funding.

Reference Group Feedback

The Reference Group highlighted some of the challenges for local government to be able to apply for all the funds and programmes that central government are allocating, as they often have very onerous application processes that many councils do not have the administrative resources for.

The Reference Group noted that within the COVID-19 recovery environment there are many programmes being deployed at different levels, and it is often difficult to know exactly what is going on and the best way to be involved.

MfE acknowledged the challenges of the funding process and highlighted ways in which they are working to improve this process, such as offering some funding up front which will assist with capacity building and moving to a ‘high trust’ funding agreements with local government. However, MfE noted that there still needs to be a balance to ensure the most effective use of the funds.

Keeping Local Government Connected with Jobs for Nature and other recovery programmes

MfE have launched a Jobs for Nature website, where any interested party can go to find more information and contacts. Agencies are also currently investigating establishing ‘Jobs for Nature Navigators’ in each region to assist local authorities and other groups to navigate the programme.

The Recovery Reference Group is working to ensure that local government are aware of all central government recovery programmes, and have channels to link in to these programmes where relevant. Noting Connected.govt.nz has been launched by MDS to assist workers, employers and job seekers navigate all of the available COVID recovery programmes and assistance.

COVID-19 Response Preparedness

It is important we remain prepared and aware of our responsibilities and service levels across the Alert Level Framework should your region need to change Alert Levels.

We encourage councils to continue to promote best practice within your communities for good hand hygiene, cough etiquette and to support people to keep a diary of activities through displaying the contact tracing QR codes. You may find posters to support these messages here.

You will find detail of all the COVID-19 Alert Levels on the COVID-19 website.

The most up-to-date guidance on council services and operations across the COVID-19 Alert Levels can be found on the COVID-19 Response Unit webpage.

Other useful Resources

The All of Government communications team will be updating the Unite Against Covid digital channels, including boosted social media posts, Radio and TV information, and the COVID-19 Government website with the following key messages for people in the area of Auckland. 

You may find posters to support the key messages.

In July the Government set out the “Stamp it Out” framework for responding to new cases of community transmission, should these arise.

We have re-attached a set of key messages and an A3 on strategy that you may find useful to support you in conversations with your communities.

Foreign nationals in need of assistance can check their eligibility and apply online at the redcross website.

Connected.govt.nz has been launched by MSD to assist workers, employers and job seekers navigate all of the available COVID recovery programmes and assistance. The website is supported by a free phone line, 0800 264 737 and MSD have 35 physical Connected locations around the country.