Local Government COVID-19 Response Update – Thursday 26 August 2021

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Here’s today’s update

The Prime Minister announced on Monday August 23 2021, that the whole of New Zealand will remain in Alert Level 4 until at least 11.59pm Friday 27 August 2021. Cabinet will reassess this on Friday 27 August 2021. Auckland will remain in Alert Level 4 until at least 11.59pm Tuesday 31 August 2021. This will be reassessed on Monday 30 August 2021.

Rates collection penalties under Alert Level 4

Some local authorities may have their first instalment of rates falling due while council offices are closed, leaving people who wish to pay in person unable to do so.

Advice from Simpson Grierson suggests that there is little risk on councils deferring the application of first instalment penalties to a point where people who wished to pay in person have had a reasonable opportunity to do so.

Councils should also check their remission policies to determine if these would allow for remission of penalties.

Other options may jeopardise future application of penalties.

Public toilet operations under Alert Level 4

Taituarā have now finalised the updated list of all public toilets open under Alert Level 4. Council public toilets open under Alert Level 4 – Updated 25 August 2021.

This is important information for the transport sector, in particular long-haul freight. Thank you to all councils for providing the information.

If you are operating public toilets under any Alert Level, the Ministry of Health advise putting up a QR code poster for each location. QR code posters can be applied for on the COVID-19 website.

Guidance on mandatory record keeping at Alert Level 3 and lower

We are working with agencies to develop guidance for mandatory record keeping at Alert Level 3 and lower. This guidance will be published as soon as available.

A reminder this will come into effect seven days after we change alert levels. The seven-day window provides businesses and other locations where record keeping will be required with time to ensure they have record keeping systems and processes in place.

On 22 August 2021, the Government announced that COVID-19 tracer app scanning (record keeping) is to be required under all alert levels for everyone 12 and older.

This means many public locations will need to ensure that visitors keep a record when they visit. This can be done by scanning QR codes with the COVID-19 Tracer App or making a manual record.

Businesses and locations will be responsible for making sure people record their visit. Some locations may have existing measures in place to record visits such as gyms which have swipe card access, and this is adequate to ensure a record is kept.

MBIE advice on building consent timeframes

We have heard concerns from some councils around being able to meet the statutory time frames for building consents while in the higher Alert Levels.

We have been in contact with MBIE, who advised that councils should contact them  (in particular the Building System Assurance team: consentsystem@mbie.govt.nz) directly if they foresee any issues meeting the time frames under the Building Act 2004. This can either be done as a general notification or under a section 6A notification.

This will help MBIE determine if any changes or relief may be required via legislative or regulatory settings. MBIE and IANZ will continue to communicate about the impacts of operating under Alert Level 4, including what this means for council’s ability to meet its statutory timeframes.

Small updates to the Alert Level Requirements Order

Last night, 25 August 2021 a minor amendment was made to the Alert Level Requirements Order. The updated Alert Level Requirement order.

The amendments include:

allowing childcare providers to pick up children from their home (subject current to the existing restrictions)

allowing in-patients to return home or transfer from hospitals or similar facilities

Local Government essential services – Cemeteries and crematoria workstream

Last week Taituarā reached out to staff involved in the cemeteries and crematoria workstream. There will be a follow-up workshop on Monday 30 August, if you haven’t been contacted but would be keen to be involved in the workshop, please contact karen.thomas@taituara.org.nz.

Impact of Alert Level changes on the Three Waters Stimulus funding

A number of councils have flagged that the current COVID-19 situation may pose a risk to meeting the 31 March 2022 timeline for their 2020 Three Waters Stimulus Funding programmes. We are aware of these concerns and will update councils in due course.

Extension to deadlines for submitting NMS data to Ministry for the Environment

Some councils have contacted the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) expressing concerns about their ability to collate and submit the required National Monitoring System (NMS) data by 31 August 2021.

In response to the current lock down restrictions and the impacts that has on councils, the MfE considers that it is fair and reasonable to allow an extension for councils to submit their NMS data by 1 November 2021.

If lock down restrictions continue through August and September, MfE will revisit the timeframe of 1 November 2021 and may extend it further.

If you have any further questions please email NMS@mfe.govt.nz.

Vaccinations for essential workers

The Response Unit is working with the Ministry of Health about prioritising vaccines for essential workers. We will keep you up to date as we know more.

Ministry of Transport

The Ministry of Transport have released several pieces of guidance on Transport and Travel in Alert Level 4: You can read the guidance on the COVID-19 transport information on the Ministry of Transport website.

Information on current cases, COVID-19 test sites and economic support

There are 68 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community, bringing the total number of cases connected with the outbreak to 277. In total there are 263 cases in Auckland and 14 are in Wellington.

If you have cold and flu symptoms, please get tested. Available testing sites can be found here on the Ministry of Health website: Available testing sites, with more being stood up in Auckland.

Locations of interest can be found Locations of Interest, and is being updated as soon as information is available.

Economic assistance is available for those impacted by the lockdown, more information available on the COVID-19 website.

Ombudsman’s advisory on LGOIMA during COVID-19

The Ombudsman has released an advisory about managing LGOIMA requests during lockdown. There is an emphasis on communicating with the public about any challenges your council may be facing. The advisory can be found here: Ombudsman's statement

A COVID-19 FAQS guide can also be found here: Ombudsman's FAQs. This guide answers questions from agencies and requesters about dealing with official information requests during the COVID-19 emergency.

Epidemic notice remains in force

The following provisions will remain in place until the Principal Notice expires or is revoked:

the amendments to enable council meetings via audio or visual link to meet quorum requirements regardless of Council Standing Orders;

the provisions enabling council meetings to be open to the public through online access and to post meeting agendas, reports and minutes on council websites rather than physical locations;

new members of Council can continue to make their statutory declaration (oath of office) via audio or audio-visual link; and

the mechanism for making further changes to by-election timing by Order in Council and provisions enabling local authority chief executives to delay the commencement of by-election timeframes.

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