Update - Wednesday 17 June 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Alert Level 1

  • The return of COVID-19 cases to New Zealand yesterday is a reminder that COVID-19 continues to be a global issue and we need to remain vigilant and prepared to respond to any resurgence of cases.
  • The Response Unit leadership team continues to meet regularly and are on hand to support you as required as we move forward.
  • While restrictions/requirements on businesses are lifted at Alert Level 1, we do 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. Collateral to this effect can be found on https://uniteforrecovery.govt.nz/ 

New programme to assist foreign nationals in serious hardship

  • Yesterday the Government announced a new programme Assistance for Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 will launch on 1 July 2020 to assist foreign nationals in serious hardship. You can view the full media release here: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-programme-assist-foreign-nationals-serious-hardship
  • The Programme will continue the assistance provided by your Civil Defence and Emergency Management Groups. It is worth $37.6 million and will be administered by the Department of Internal Affairs and delivered by a community-based NGO.
  • It will provide temporary, in-kind assistance to eligible people to help meet basic needs such as food and accommodation. No cash payments will be offered.
  • Foreign nationals should be seeking to depart New Zealand as soon as possible if they cannot support themselves here, and should contact their embassy, high commission or consulate for assistance in the first instance. Where returning home isn’t immediately possible, assistance will be provided under the Programme to temporary visa holders where it has been established that:
    • the person is experiencing serious hardship, and
    • all other avenues of potential support have been exhausted, such as access to savings or other assets, insurance cover, consular assistance from their own foreign missions, or help from family and friends. 
  • We will provide more detail on this programme and what this will mean for you in our update next week.

Ongoing status of COVID-19 specific legislation 

  • As noted in last week’s update, some of the temporary legislative amendments to support governance and decision making through the COVID-19 event remain in force while the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 remains in force.
  • The Epidemic Notice is currently due to expire on 25 June 2020. However, the Government has the option to revoke the notice early or extend the notice past this date.
  • The notice gives effect to a wide range of COVID-19 related measures and the decision on whether to extend or revoke it will need to consider all these matters.
  • We acknowledge your need for greater certainty for your forward planning of council meetings. Unfortunately, we cannot provide any further update on the ongoing status of the Epidemic Notice at this time. We will update you as soon as soon as we can in a stand alone update.

Recovery Reference Group Update 

  • At the 12 June Recovery Reference Group meeting the Infrastructure Commission and Ministry for the Environment attended to discuss their mahi in relation to local government and COVID-19 Recovery.
  • A short overview of the points of note from the Reference Group meeting are provided below for your information.
  • If you have questions for the Infrastructure Commission or Ministry for the Environment on their COVID-19 Recovery mahi discussed below, you can send these to us via LGCGcovid19response@dia.govt.nz

Presentation from the Infrastructure Commission

  • The Infrastructure Commission (Infracom) have provided this presentation on their role in COVID-19 Recovery (PDF, 1MB). This includes discussion on Infracom’s roles and functions, their mahi in COVID recovery, the Construction Sector Accord and the shovel-ready projects process.
  • Infracom is an autonomous Crown entity, with an advisory role only - they do not have funding allocations or powers of direction.
  • Infracom is at the start of a journey to build relationships with councils, investors (business and iwi), and influence with successive Governments over time. Your input as local government is crucial to the success of Infracom’s mahi.

Infracom and COVID-19

  • In the initial COVID-19 response, Infracom’s focus was on supporting the construction sector to continue to operate/hibernate as appropriate. This included retention of the workforce and supporting early stage projects to continue moving through the value chain during the Level 4 lockdown.
  • Infracom also supported agencies and industry with immediate issues, such as contractual matters, that required parties to come together and find pragmatic solutions with an eye to the longer-term sustainability of the sector.
  • As we shifted to Recovery thinking, Infracom have supported advice on shovel-ready projects - currently before Ministers for consideration – and advice to Government on stimulus funding of early stage projects as an opportunity to support infrastructure investment.
  • COVID-19 has helped to identify some more medium/long term considerations and opportunities for infrastructure to support different/innovative longer-term outcomes.
  • COVID-19 has also exposed flaws in the existing system, such as rapid infrastructure investment and the RMA process. While COVID-19 has seen the introduction of some short-term solutions to these, such as the fast-tracking legislation discussed below, Infracom will continue to consider the longer term lessons from this for infrastructure investment.
  • Infracom acknowledge the long lead-in time for infrastructure, and the considerations local government face in this planning process - if we can collectively get this investment right there can be broad positive effects, if we get this wrong it can be expensive for many decades to come.

Development of the 30-year infrastructure strategy

  • Local Government will be a crucial stakeholder in the development and testing of Infracom’s 30-year infrastructure strategy - your input in terms of data, insights and experiences, will be crucial to ensure the strategy is robust and credible.
  • As Infracom undertakes the development process, there will be targeted and broader engagement opportunities for local government input. Infracom and LGNZ have also established a reference group to test emerging thinking. 
  • The first stage in the development involves building a stocktake of assets and an evidence base to understand themes of high and low performing infrastructure. In the coming weeks Infracom will be sending out an asset owner survey to capture local government’s view of assets and performance. 
  • Following this, Infracom intends to hold workshops with you later this year to test insights and cross-cutting themes of performance identified in this baseline information.
  • The Recovery Group attendees raised that it is important this strategy considers local government planning timeframes, particularly with LTPs coming up, but also how the 30-year strategy could support local government planning in this space. 
  • You can keep up to date about engagement opportunities by subscribing to Infracom’s newsletter here: https://infracom.govt.nz/news/newsletter/

The Infrastructure Pipeline

  • We encourage you to take a look at Infracom’s infrastructure pipeline for the market: https://infracom.govt.nz/projects/  This pipeline is an iterative piece of work and will evolve over time as more fulsome data and the 30-year strategy is developed and included.
  • The pipeline provides an opportunity for Infracom to work with local government and the infrastructure industry to identify opportunities for bundling and sequencing of infrastructure projects nationally, regionally and locally.
  • If you have information/data that has not been captured in the pipeline you can send this through to Infracom.

Shovel-ready projects and wider infrastructure investment challenges

  • The Reference Group attendees expressed a frustration that councils had worked hard to meet short timeframes to input into the assessments of the shovel-ready projects and have yet to hear further about these.
  • While Infracom’s role in this process was complete (with the recommendations before Cabinet), they acknowledged this was a balance between the need for speed in funding as a stimulus and making sure the investment is made into the right projects.
  • All parties noted the tension in the need to continue to invest in infrastructure to support development, managing existing deficits and mature investment cycles.
  • COVID has highlighted some of these funding pressures on councils and the LGFA is currently looking into what changes can be made to provide more lee-way for investment funding.
  • Infracom will also be looking to ways it can support local government in discussions around the importance of investment in infrastructure given the challenges of political cycles on conversations with communities and funding partners.

Ministry for the Environment (MfE) discussion

  • MfE discussed the work they are undertaking in response to COVID-19 and their existing work programme in this context.
  • During the immediate COVID-19 Response, some MfE staff were seconded to different roles to support the Government’s Health response, acknowledging the priority to support large volume of immediate response work.
  • As New Zealand moves into COVID-19 Recovery, MfE notes that the decisions taken today have the potential to shape New Zealand for the next 50-100 years.
  • MfE are working to ensure these decisions support a transition to a low emissions, sustainable economy. This does not always have to be a trade-off between economic development and intergenerational environmental impacts.
  • MfE also had some largescale existing policy reforms that were underway prior to COVID-19, such as the Essential Freshwater Reform, the Resource Management Review and the waste work programme. The way NZ adapted to COVID-19 has provided insights into the challenges and opportunities in these spaces.
  • Moving forward, MfE will also have a role in supporting businesses to recognise and capture the benefits of these lessons, such as the implications on congestion of working from home arrangements.

MfE’s Recovery work programme

  • The MfE recovery work programme includes, but is not limited to:
    • Supporting central government consideration of the immediate shovel-ready projects and what the next phase of these projects may look like. This includes supporting criteria for investment that promotes a sustainable, inclusive, and productive economy.
    • Supporting MBIE in their work considering industry strategies alongside sector bodies, such as tourism, the primary industries and trades.
    • Investment through the Jobs for Nature funding announced under Budget 2020. Working with businesses/farmers, iwi, DOC, Ministry for Primary Industries etc to ensure this investment is implemented efficiently and effectively. Local government input into this is key and MfE have seconded local government expertise into this team.

The Fast Track Consenting Bill

  • MfE have been working to support the introduction of new legislation to support a streamlined pathway for delivery of infrastructure projects. View the Bill here.
  • MfE took the time to acknowledge the local government expertise that had input into the policy development process so far as this could not have been delivered without your knowledge and expertise. You can read the policy paper here: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/more/briefings-cabinet-papers-and-related-material-search/cabinet-papers/covid-19-recovery-fast
  • The Bill was introduced and received its first reading yesterday. There will be a rapid Select Committee process, with submissions closing in 4 days (21 June). You can make a submission and follow the Bill’s progress here: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_99143/covid-19-recovery-fast-track-consenting-bill
  • MfE will distribute a factsheet and process map on this Bill to support your understanding of the legislations and process for implementation shortly.
  • Under the Bill, Local Government will have a role in supporting access of information for projects to the Expert Consenting Panel and compliance monitoring and enforcement. This will come with a cost-recovery process for local government’s role here.
  • MfE also intend to consider secondments to support implementation of this process and encourage councils get in touch with MfE if you think this is a development opportunity for specific staff.

All-of-Government Recovery Programmes