Local Government COVID-19 Response Update – Friday 27 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.

All of the country south of Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm Tuesday 31 August 2021.

Auckland and Northland are likely to remain in Alert Level 4 for a further two weeks. An updated timeframe for Auckland and Northland will be considered by Cabinet on Monday 30 August 2021.

Updated guidance

Guidance will continue to be updated as more information comes available, and we will be reviewing Alert Level 3 guidance ahead of Tuesday.

The Response Unit has made some updates to the guidance document council services and operations through alert levels 2, 3 & 4. The updated guidance will soon be available to the Response Unit webpage.

This newest version of the Guidance provides small updates to our guidance on:

  • Record keeping
  • Cash collection on rates
  • Travel across Alert Level boundaries
  • Building consenting time frames

If councils identify any issues when using the guidance, please feedback to the Response Unit.

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 will be made available after 11:59am on Sunday 29 August, 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 will be 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 for council services and operations through alert levels 2, 3 & 4 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 now 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. 

Guidance on operating Libraries under Alert Level 3

Click and collect (contactless delivery) of library material is allowed at Alert Level 3 but a cautious approach should be taken when deciding whether to provide such services and people delivering or in any possible public facing roles should make sure that they adhere to social distancing guidance and wear masks.

National Library of New Zealand has a policy of quarantining all material for 72 hours. In part this is because they often work in colder/temperature controlled environments. Councils may wish to consider doing the same. This information is included in the guidance for council services and operations through alert levels 2, 3 & 4.

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.  

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.

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.

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 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community, bringing the total number of cases connected with the outbreak to 347. In total there are 333 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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