Update - Friday 17 April 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Council services and operations through Alert Level 3 and 4

The Response Unit has worked with some council representatives to develop guidance on council services and operations at Alert Level 3.

Read more about Council services and operations through alert levels 3 and 4 - updated 23 April 2020 (PDF, 919KB)

Frequently asked questions - Alert level 3 (PDF, 520KB)

This guidance has been developed for council services based on the decisions the Government has made for Alert Level 3. We hope it will help councils manage the transition to Alert Level 3 and support consistency in the delivery of local government services across New Zealand.

Also attached are some simple FAQs relating to local government services at Alert Level 3 that you may find useful.

Please note: no decision has been made to change Alert Levels and you should remain operating at Alert Level 4 until advised by the Government.

If you have any enquiries around council services/operations at Level 3 please send these enquiries to the Response Unit through to this COVID-19 inbox or your regular SOLGM/LGNZ/DIA contacts.

Further guidance is being developed 

We are continuing to work with council representatives to develop guidance around Alert Level 2 services and will provide this as soon as it is available.

We would like to acknowledge the valuable input these council representatives have given to ensure this guidance is fit for purpose.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have provided the following link to Council specific information under Alert Levels 1-3. This information will continue to be updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry for the Environment are also preparing a set of FAQs to support the application of the RMA under Alert Level 3, this will be distributed when it is available.

Procurement under Alert Levels 3 and 2

We have initiated a cross sector group including contractors and councils to explore options for speeding up delivery of maintenance, renewals and new projects in anticipation of moving into Alert Levels 3 and 2. This will particularly affect the water and highways sectors.

This work will include options for fast tracking procurement and even using direct appointment and early contractor involvement under open-book arrangements. We are also exploring whether developing an alliance framework based on the SCIRT model used for the

Christchurch rebuild might have merit particularly in the water sector. We are monitoring closely the Crown Infrastructure Partners work on ‘Shovel Ready’ projects to ensure a coordinated and joined up approach.

Safe working practices under Level 3

We have reviewed several papers advising on safe work practices (both NZ and International) to provide clear, comprehensive advice to the sector for work in Level 3.

The resource that has been developed by SiteSafe and CHASNZ combined is, in our view, the most appropriate resource available for Councils. It is also specific to the New Zealand construction environment and specific to operating in COVID-19 Level 3 status.

Read more about New Zealand COVID-19 construction protocols (PDF, 605KB)

NEMA update to Mayors, Chairs, CEs and CDEM controllers

Today the Response Unit and NEMA held a virtual discussion with you and CDEM controllers.

In this call Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Sarah Stuart-Black both took the opportunity to acknowledge the leadership you and your staff have shown your communities as you continue to work through this complex, challenging and fast paced response.
For those of you who could not make this call a brief overview is provided below.

Status update on COVID-19 Response

The group were also given a general status update on work DHBs have been progressing in your communities to ensure contact tracing was up and running and ready for any change in Alert Level. Your need for better access to information was acknowledged and this is being progressed as a priority for the Response Unit.

Local Government Reference Group

We are looking to establish a small and nimble reference group (made up of representation of CE’s/CEG chairs, elected reps, group controller). 

The group will aim to:

  • Provide input into the All-of Government and NCMC advice that support New Zealanders through COVID-19;
  • Provide Emergency Management and Local Government perspectives to wider response planning and delivery;
  • Ensure that the response to COVID-19 remains well coordinated and managed through the response and recovery phases; And help us to;
    • Inform and test thinking on complex, local government related, issues at pace and in a confidential manner
    • Provide insights and improvements to planning and implementation activities that manages risk and unintended consequences for Emergency Management and Local Government
    • Identify critical resourcing and pressure points that could impact on communities.

Caring for Communities Work Stream

As the pandemic has evolved, it has become clear that the welfare response to support New Zealand’s communities requires a unique and long-term approach.

For this reason, the ‘Welfare Pillar’ of the nationally led Pandemic Plan has been renamed as the Caring for Communities work stream.

The overarching objective of the Caring for Communities work stream is to ensure all those individuals, whānau and communities at greater risk of experiencing adverse health, social or economic outcomes as a result of COVID-19 and associated restrictions (Priority communities) have information and support to provide for their immediate and continued wellbeing.

An operating model is needed to support this and will see a transition from CDEM Groups to an expanded social sector services framework with clear roles and responsibilities, resources, relationships, systems, processes and intelligence/reporting.

Next steps

These updates are intended to be called fortnightly. In the interim you may raise any questions or concerns through this inbox or your existing DIA/NEMA contacts.

These questions will be responded to at the next fortnightly update, these daily emails, or, if necessary, through bespoke two way conversations.

Government wage subsidy – mitigation criterion update

Last week we provided advice on council eligibility for the Government wage subsidy and the qualifying criteria.  In that advice we pointed out that, among other things, subsidy applicants must demonstrate that “active steps have been taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19”.  The published guidance on this criterion for businesses in general suggests that this could include:

  • drawing from your cash reserves (as appropriate);
  • activating your business continuity plan;
  • making an insurance claim; and
  • seeking advice and support from a relevant industry association.

Our further consideration of this mitigation criterion has concluded that, as the circumstances of every council and its separately registered subsidiaries will vary widely, we cannot add much to the general guidance.  However, if you are preparing a subsidy application we suggest that it would also be helpful to include in the application information about efforts made to find and place affected staff into alternate roles within your organisation or elsewhere.  If relevant, you may also wish to signal whether and how your balance sheet has been used to help keep staff on the payroll.

All-of-Government messages and resources on life under Alert Level Three

Information on life under Alert levels 3, 2 and 1 is now available on the COVID-19 Government website.

It is vital that everyone knows we are still under Alert Level 4, and all Alert Level 4 restrictions remain in place.

A decision and announcement when and if there will be a change to the Alert Level 4 status will be made on Monday 20 April.

A wide range of new content has been added to the Business.govt website regarding workplace restrictions at different alert levels.

Businesses should carefully consider how to safely operate at each alert level based on their individual circumstances. WorkSafe has created guidance about safe working during this pandemic.

The Ministry of Health also has specific infectious disease control advice for workplaces here.

If you have any questions, you can contact the Response Unit

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit Webpage

We now have a Response Unit webpage on the Department of Internal Affairs website that is designed to pull together useful information for the sector.

Recent editions of this daily update can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website and we will link to other guidance for the sector in the coming days.