Update - Friday 24 April 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Survey on the Financial implications of COVID-19 for Councils

Last week the finance workstream published an initial report on possible financial Implications of COVID-19 for councils.

Read more about this report.

The finance workstream is now working on developing a second report with more detailed assumptions and analysis.

The workstream is aiming to finalise and release the report to councils during the week commencing 4 May 2020.

Yesterday, a survey was sent to council CFO’s through the SOLGM Finance LGConnect seeking responses to three questions about rates for the 2020/21 financial year

The questions refer to:

  • what was projected in the 2018-28 long-term plan;
  • what your council was planning to do with rates back in March (pre-COVID-19); and
  • what your council will likely do with rates post-COVID-19 – and it is recognised that this may still be unknown, so an indication of the range of options that will likely be considered/consulted on would still be very helpful.

The survey results will help us to identify what the expected impact on rates revenue will be for next financial year (i.e. the revenue shortfall)

Having this information will help with national recovery planning and thinking about how best to respond to the shortfall and the consequences it has.

We encourage you to work with your finance teams to engage with this survey to ensure we have as much robust data as possible for this analysis.

We appreciate the time and expertise councils contributed towards the first report and look forward to providing the second report as we continue our joint efforts to help you access and understand the data and information needed for recovery and longer-term decision making.

Guidance for COVID-19 Alert Level 2

The immediate focus has been preparing for and managing a return to Alert Level 3 at 11.59 next Monday 27 April 2020.

Our guidance for Alert Level 3 can be found on the COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit webpage.

We are aware that a subsequent move to Level 2, whenever that comes, is likely to have greater implications for the sector than the move between Alert Levels 4 and 3.

Today the essential services workstream held a small workshop with sector representatives to discuss the guidance for Alert Level 2.

We will be testing this draft guidance with central government agencies early next week with an aim to share this in time for the sector to make appropriate adjustments for the transition to Level 2 when it occurs.    

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.

By-elections under Alert Level 3

The restrictions on movement at Level 3 are essentially the same as Alert Level 4 in relation to local authority elections, with the exception that people are now able to access local services and business where this does not involve person to person contact.

Our guidance relating to local elections largely remains unchanged to that of Alert Level 4. However, there is a little more room for campaign activities that do not involve close contact.

The administration of local government by-elections is a key function of local government and considered an “essential service”.

As an essential service, electoral officers, election service providers, local authorities, and contractors and suppliers providing services for local elections must:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place
  • restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert Level 3 period
  • act in accordance with the guidance.

It is important that electoral officers and election service providers liaise directly with their suppliers and contractors and apply this guidance to their circumstances.

Provision may be made for candidates (and/or their nominators) and voters to drop off nomination documents or voting papers to council offices if this can be done in accordance with the guidance, but we note that at Level 3 customers are not permitted on council office premises. Therefore, we recommend that alternative arrangements are made to provide contactless drop off processes.

No in-person campaigning activities should occur during the Alert Level 3 period and the standard restrictions on personal movement should be observed. Councils may allow candidates (or their supporters) to put up electoral signage and deliver leaflets to letterboxes if this can be done safely and in accordance with the public health restrictions (including maintaining 2m distance from any other person). Door-knocking activities and candidate meetings should not proceed under Level 3.

ANZAC Day services

We remain in Alert Level 4 until 11.59pm on Monday 27 April 2020.

This requires strict social distancing and no public gatherings.

Only essential workers should be travelling beyond their immediate areas.

Anzac Day dawn services are cancelled. This implies there should be no associated activities, such as wreath-laying and people should be discouraged from gathering at Cenotaphs and memorial sites.

The Prime Minister has encouraged New Zealanders to participate, should they wish to, in the RSA and New Zealand Defence Force’s Stand At Dawn event.

This invites people to: “Join us at 6:00am on Saturday 25 April. Stand at your letterbox, at the front door, in your lounge rooms balconies, in your driveway … but please stay within your bubble’’.

Read more information on the COVID-19 website.  

Evolving role of the Response Unit

The Response Unit is considering how its role and functions should evolve to best support local government as New Zealand begins to consider a recovery from COVID-19.

This will likely mean there will be changes to the communications and work programme of the Response Unit. However, we will also ensure we maintain the ability to respond quickly, should further outbreaks of COVID-19 occur as we move down through Alert Levels.

We will look to maintain our close partnership across DIA, SOLGM, LGNZ and NEMA.

We will communicate further information on these changes in the near future.

Resources on life under Alert Level 3

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

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

Worksafe has provided "Transitioning from Alert Level 4" advice including the necessary health and safety requirements for businesses.

Read more for information on the WorkSafe website.   

The Government has released the Golden Rules for businesses.

Read more on the COVID-19 website.  

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

The guidance and FAQs for councils services reference establishing ‘work groups’ for those staff that must work in pairs/groups. These groups are intended to ensure staff are exposed to a consistent set of their colleagues. The groups must be able to operate safely and are not exempt from the above requirements.