Update - 1 May 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Financial implications of COVID-19 for Councils: Report #2

As you will be aware, the Finance Workstream published an initial report on possible financial implications of COVID-19 for councils.

Read the report - Local Government Sector COVID-19 Financial Implications Report 1 – Initial Analysis

The Workstream is now finalising its second, more detailed report with Alert Level scenarios, assumptions and further implications analysis.

The updated analysis has produced some different results to what the first report indicated (e.g. lower overall revenue reductions than first predicted), but it is clear that there are, and will continue to be, significant issues to address over coming months and years.

The aim is to circulate the second report to councils early next week.

We would like to thank those of you who responded to the SOLGM surveys to help us to identify impacts on rates revenue (i.e. the revenue shortfall) for the final quarter of 2019/20 and where councils expect they might land with rate-setting for the 2020/21 year.

We appreciate the time and expertise of councils in supporting these reports as we continue our joint efforts to help you, Ministers, government agencies, and others access and understand the data and information needed for recovery and longer-term decision making. 

NEMA update to Mayors, Chairs, CEs and CDEM controllers

Today the Response Unit and NEMA held a virtual discussion with you and CDEM controllers. For those of you who could not make this call, a brief overview is provided below.

Public health update

Ian Town, MoH Chief Science Advisor provided a public health update. This included an acknowledgement of the substantial effort you have put in to support NZ in collectively managing this pandemic.

As we transition through the Alert Levels, this collective responsibility will remain important alongside everyone taking personal responsibility for keeping us safe. It will continue to be important to remain vigilant, support each other, and stick to the COVID-19 restrictions for the Alert Level.

NEMA’s work on guidance for Alert Level 2

Sarah Stuart Black provided an observation of the hard work that had been put into the transition from Alert Level 4 to 3 and noted that the transition from Alert Level 3 to 2 will contain even more complexities.

NEMA and central government are currently working through what Alert Level 2 will look like with regard to compliance, public messaging and appropriate legislation provisions.

As NEMA work through guidance on what Alert Level 2 will look like for CDEM groups they will test this thinking with some CDEM Group managers and CEs. NEMA appreciates there will need to be a balance to enable de-escalation of resources for some regions, where appropriate, while others may continue to need to maintain this function to support priority communities.

Caring for Communities (C4C)

Carolyn Schwalger gave an update on the C4C CEs group where herself and Paul James attended and represented local government concerns and challenges.

Caroline also noted that the complexities local government are facing in meeting community need is currently being supported through the additional $30m financial appropriation (through NEMA) to meet immediate challenges around food security or emergency accommodation, ahead of transitioning this to the Caring for Communities Work stream.

The CEs group are building a model to how to manage the medium and long term social impacts of COVID-19. Attendees in today’s meeting raised a desire to have local government representation at the CEs group.

Local Government Response Unit

Michael Lovett noted the Response Unit are looking to refocus on Recovery from COVID-19 and are also working to refine our guidance on council services at Alert Level 2 (discussed further below).

Throughout the meeting concerns around Alert Level 2 travel restrictions were raised, Michael noted this is currently under consideration by central government and the concerns raised have been fed into this process. We will provide an update on this in due course.

The Response Unit are on hand to respond to support you and can be contacted through this email.

Reference Group for the 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.

The Recovery workstream are setting up a small reference group to test our thinking on the recovery focused roles and functions. As with all reference groups we are looking to strike a balance across local government expertise (rural, metro, regional councils).

This reference group will be meeting early next week. We will communicate further information on these changes in the near future.

Guidance on council services at Alert Level 2

We thank you for your patience as we continue to work on providing guidance on council services at Alert Level 2.

SOLGM tested a DRAFT set of guidance on Wednesday this week, we note this guidance is still being refined with central government agencies and is subject to change.

We would like to acknowledge those of you who have been engaged in this process with us: it is your expertise that will ensure this guidance is fit for purpose.  

We can assure you we are working to have this guidance finalised ahead of any change in Alert Level and hope to be able to provide this specific guidance towards the end of next week.

When local government guidance is finalised we will distribute it via this email and publish it on the COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit webpage.

In the meantime, a general principles approach to the different Alert Levels, including Level 2, can be found under “Alert system’’ on the COVID-19 Government website. We would note, however, that this central guidance may evolve in the light of lessons from the transition to Level 3.

Governance workstream– temporary legislation

On Wednesday we provided an update on Ministers’ decision to progress the following temporary legislative changes to address issues arising from the COVID-19 emergency:

  • Changes to local government by-election timing.
  • Streamlining the process for amending a long-term plan.
  • Public notices.
  • Special Consultative Procedure.
  • Revocation of bylaws.

*(see Wednesday’s COVID-19 LG update for more details on these changes)

We recognise that these changes are required urgently to assist your response to COVID-19. The governance workstream is working to develop and implement these changes and we will provide more information, including about timing, as soon as this is available.

We have also had some questions relating whether the legislative changes to enable audio/visual link attendance to count for the purpose of a quorum will be available at Alert Level 2. Please note these legislative changes are in effect while the Epidemic Notice is in force and are not tied to the COVID-19 Alert Levels. 


Ministry for the Environment Alert Level 3 FAQs

The Ministry for the Environment has published updated FAQs on COVID-19 for local government on their website.

These FAQs are intended to support local government fulfil Resource Management Act 1991 obligations during the COVID-19 response and recovery and have been updated to reflect Alert Level 3.

Additional resources for Alert Level 3

Information on life under Alert levels 3, 2 and 1 is now available on 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 information on the WorkSafe website.   

The Government has released the Golden Rules for businesses. Read more on the Covid19 website for more information.  

The Ministry of Health has provided updated information for those managing other health conditions during COVID-19. Read more information on the website

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