Local Government COVID-19 Response Update – Tuesday 31 August 2021

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Here’s today’s update

The Prime Minister announced on Friday August 27 2021, that the whole of New Zealand will remain in Alert Level 4 until at least 11.59pm Tuesday 31 August 2021.

On Monday 30 August the Prime Minister confirmed that from 12:00am Wednesday 1 September, all areas south of Auckland to move to Alert Level 3, for a period of one week. This will be reviewed by Cabinet on 6 September 2021. 

Auckland and Northland remain in Alert Level 4.

The plan is for Northland to move down to Alert Level 3 on 11:59pm Thursday 2 September.

Auckland will remain in Alert Level 4 for a further two weeks. This will be reviewed by Cabinet on Monday 13 September. 

New Public Health Order issued

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirement) Order (No 10) 2021 has been notified in the Gazette and published on the Legislation website and can be found here: COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirement Order (No 10) 2021

Guidance for Council Operations at Alert Level 3

New Alert Level 3 Guidance for Council Operations has been issued and is available here:guidance for council services and operations through alert levels 2, 3 & 4

If there is any doubt about guidance, the Public Health Order should be referred to in the first instance

Doing business at Alert Level 3

Businesses that require close physical contact cannot open. All other businesses can operate but with restrictions. This includes physical distancing, having extra hygiene measures and contactless options for ordering, pick-up, delivery and payment.

Business owners and operators are now able to access their premises in order to prepare.  This only applies to parts of the country that are moving to Alert Level 3, and does not apply to Auckland or Northland.

For more information on these requirements, visit Unite Against COVID-19

Mask wearing at Alert Level 3

Masks and face coverings are legally required for customers and employees involving customer contact at a business or service operating at Alert Level 3

You legally must wear a face covering:

In the public areas of courts and tribunals, local and central government agencies and social service providers with customer service counters

On public transport and at departure points for example airports, train stations and bus stops

On flights

In taxi or ride share vehicles – drivers and passengers

When visiting healthcare facilities

If you are a delivery driver to residential addresses

Inside any Alert Level 3 businesses and services that are open and involve customer contact, for example supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores and petrol stations

Guidance on mandatory record keeping at Alert Level 3 and lower

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.

A reminder this will come into effect seven days after alert levels change. This means that the mandatory record keeping requirements for business south of Auckland will come into effect from 8 September 2021.

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.

This means many businesses and locations will need to have record keeping systems and processes in place, so visitors can 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.

Paper based registers should be maintained and recorded from an individual behind a counter (i.e. your receptionist) rather than viewed and operated by everyone who enters the building. If this is inconvenient or not staffed – people should be using a ballot box system.

There will be no explicit obligation on the person responsible for the place or gathering to ensure that people are making a record. The obligation on businesses is to have systems and processes in place to ensure (as far as reasonably practicable) that customers or visitors make a record.

Businesses will not be required or expected to turn people away who may refuse to make a record of their visit, particularly if the person becomes aggressive or abusive. This will be at the discretion of the business.

We are working with agencies to further develop guidance for mandatory record keeping at Alert Level 3 and lower. This guidance will be published and regularly reviewed as more information becomes available.

Travel across Alert Level Boundaries

The latest information on travel across Alert Level Boundaries can be found  here: https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/business-travel-across-alert-level-boundaries/?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is managing the Business Travel Register. The register enables businesses and organisations to (pre-)register for essential worker travel across Alert Level boundaries.

The register is now open, and essential businesses can register:

either for permitted activities (those activities listed in the Alert Level Requirement Order): or

to seek an exemption from the Director General of Health (for something that isn’t listed in the Order).

The register will generate Business Travel Documents (BTD) for workers to display at checkpoints. The BTD includes a QR code, which enables Police to verify the document digitally against the register. The Business Travel Register is available at this link: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/news/business-travel-register-open/

For permitted activities there is no requirement to register for travel, nor are travellers required to carry the system issued BTD; there are a variety of forms of evidence that can be provided at checkpoints. However, the BTD will be a standard document recognised by Police that can be displayed from the vehicle and will therefore speed up monitoring of and passage through checkpoints.

An unofficial rule of thumb is that if you can travel under Alert Level 4 settings you will be able to do so for Alert Level 4/Alert Level 3 boundary travel – but all other travel has to be approved (so none of the previous prior approvals issued through the Business Travel system administered by MBIE will carry over)

The guidance on council services and operations through the Alert Levels (distributed Friday), provides further information on cross-boundary travel, including guidance on the Business Travel registration process.

Priority vaccinations for essential council workers

Some council essential workers who staff essential services operating under all Alert Levels will now be eligible to receive vaccinations as soon as possible, without having to wait until 1 September to book. 

The list of essential workers eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination under Group 2 has been extended. This group now includes people who work in three water services and solid waste, for example rubbish collection and recycling. 

Categories of essential workers are listed in Schedule 2 of COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 9) 2021. 

Vaccinations are now available in a number of ways - pharmacies, GPs, etc. 

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

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 49 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community, bringing the total number of cases connected with the outbreak to 611. In total there are 596 cases in Auckland and 15 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.