Update Wednesday 10 June 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Alert Level 1

  • At midnight on Monday 8 June, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 1.
  • This is a tribute to the team of five million and we would like to acknowledge your leadership in your communities throughout the COVID-19 event.
  • COVID-19 continues to be a global issue and we need to remain prepared to respond to any resurgence of cases. The Response Unit continues to meet regularly and are on hand to support you as required as we move forward.
  • Under the framework for Alert Level 1 we see a return to normal operations with border measures remaining in place. Please see below for further guidance on the border control exceptions process for essential workers.
  • While restrictions/requirements on businesses are lifted at Alert Level 1, we do encourage councils to continue to promote best practice within your communities for good hand hygiene, cough etiquette and to support people to keep a diary of activities through displaying the contact tracing QR codes. Collateral to this effect will be made available on https://uniteforrecovery.govt.nz/ 
  • The All of Government communications team are interested in utilising the Unite for Recovery website, brand and social channels to partner with and support any local and regional recovery initiatives. Your comms teams can email pim@ncmc.govt.nz to get in touch if you are working on something where there might be an opportunity in this space.
  • The Golden rules for Alert Level 1 are as follows:

1. If you're sick, stay home. Don't go to work, school or socialise. 
2. If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, call your doctor or healthline. Get tested. 
3. Wash your hands.  4. Sneeze or cough into your elbow and regularly clean shared surfaces. 
5. You must self-isolate if you're told by officials to do so. 
6. Stay healthy, work with your GP if you have underlying health issues.
7. Keep track of where you've been.
8. Businesses help people track movements by displaying the QR code. 
9. Stay vigilant. 
10. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself

  • Given the permissive nature of Alert Level 1, we do not consider it necessary to issue local government sector specific guidance for Alert Level 1 as we have with the other Alert Levels.
  • However, if you have any questions please send these to your usual SOLGM, LGNZ, DIA contacts, or the Response Unit inbox: LGCGcovid19response@dia.govt.nz
  • The most up to date all of government information and guidance for recovery will be posted here https://uniteforrecovery.govt.nz/unite-for-the-recovery/

Ongoing status of COVID-19 specific legislation 

  • In response to the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 the Government implemented a number of temporary legislative amendments to support governance and decision making through the COVID-19 event. All COVID-19 legislation can be found in one place here: https://uniteforrecovery.govt.nz/updates-and-resources/legislation-and-key-documents/
  • We have received a number of questions about the ongoing status of these provisions under Alert Level One. The following provisions remain in place while the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 remains in force (i.e. this is not dependent on the COVID-19 Alert Levels):
  • 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. However, Councils may wish to consider whether to provide both online and physical access to their communities for council meetings and records.
  • New members of Council can make their statutory declaration (oath of office) via audio or audio-visual link.
  • Rates rebate applicants can complete the statutory declaration requirement via audio or visual link. As rates rebate applications need to be received by councils before the end of this rating year, you may wish to consider reminding those in your communities that are eligible for a rebate for the current rating year.
  • The Order-in-Council mechanism for making further changes to by-election timing and provisions enabling local authority chief executives to delay the commencement of by-election timeframes remain available.
  • The Epidemic Notice is currently due to expire on 25 June 2020. However, the Government has the option to revoke the notice early or extend the notice past this date.
  • The notice gives effect to a wide range of COVID-19 related measures and the decision on whether to extend or revoke it will need to consider all these matters.
  • The Governance team are working to ensure the implications for local government are understood in these considerations.
  • We acknowledge your need for greater certainty for your forward planning of council meetings and will provide an update on the ongoing status of the Epidemic Notice as soon as we can.
  • Some other COVID-19 legislative amendments have specified revocation dates (i.e. are not tied to an Epidemic Notice or COVID-19 Alert Levels). Those relevant to local government include:
    • The extensions providing for bylaws that would otherwise be revoked by section 160A of the Local Government Act 2002 to continue in force until 30 June 2021 - remains in force until 1 July 2021.
    • Amendments to streamline the process for amending a long-term plan which amends audit requirements for long-term plan amendments, if the amendment is COVID-19 response or recovery related and is necessary in order to meet statutory deadlines – remains in force until 1 August 2020.
    • Amendments to provide more flexibility in the special consultative procedure process if urgent decisions relating to the COVID-19 response are needed – remains in force until 1 October 2020.
    • Amendments to the Resource Management Act to allow for RMA hearings to be held by audio visual link, video and certain documents to be made available online. These changes will have backdated effect from 25 March 2020 and remains in force until 31 October 2021.
    • Amendments to the definition of public notice to place a “reasonably practicable” caveat on the requirements for inclusion in a newspaper –remains in force until 1 November 2020.

Border Control exceptions for essential workers

  • With the shift to Alert Level One beginning at midnight on 8 June 2020, managing the COVID-19 risks at the border becomes even more critical. Strict border restrictions, combined with continued stringent isolation/quarantine of all arrivals for 14 days, remain key to minimising the risk of introducing new cases of COVID-19 to New Zealand. 
  • We anticipate these border restrictions will remain in place for quite some time and may have some specific workforce implications for local government.
  • As you may be aware, there is a process for applying for an exception to the border control restrictions on a case-by-case basis for essential workers.
  • Applications for local government exceptions will need to be made via the Department of Internal Affairs to the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Local Government. 
  • In considering making an application, Councils will need to be able to show that the worker has international expertise, technical requirements or a unique talent that is critical for the success of an important workstream. Some helpful questions to consider before making an application are:
    • Is there someone with the required skills and expertise already in New Zealand?
    • Can you redeploy other employees to do this work?
    • Are there are any alternatives/work-arounds that can be used, for example, use of a third party, remote working?
  • In considering these factors you may wish to look into the SOLGM Staffshare initiative that was launched this week - discussed further below.
  • Councils will also need to consider the quarantine or managed isolation process for any application. Everybody who enters New Zealand needs to complete 14 days in quarantine facilities (if they likely have COVID-19) or managed isolation facilities (if they likely don't have COVID-19). The costs of managed isolation or quarantine of the essential worker, and any accompanying family or support staff, are to be met by the Council or the individual.  
  • Currently, applications for exceptions will be considered against all of the following considerations, however the criteria are subject to change by Cabinet:
    • Whether individuals from overseas are critical for delivery of time critical projects or programmes that are of strategic economic importance (such as, providing significant spill over benefits to the economy or major employment in a region, preserving significant international trade-related business).
    • Whether international expertise, technical requirements or a unique talent is critical for success (for example, space programmes, film projects, scientific research programmes).
    • Whether it is possible to redeploy workers already in New Zealand.
    • Whether there are already people performing these roles.
    • The length of time the workers are likely to be in New Zealand.
  • Currently, the bar for applications is high. Please note: holding an existing essential skills work visa or having a role that is on the skills shortage list is not enough to justify an exception.
  • As the lead agency for local government applications under this process, DIA are on hand to provide advice and support to you in considering/making an application. We will keep you updated of any changes to the process/criteria for exceptions as we move forward.
  • If you have any questions regarding this process, or would like to make an application, please send them to the Response Unit inbox: LGCGcovid19response@dia.govt.nz

SOLGM Staffshare initiative

  • SOLGM is launching a new initiative, Staffshare, to support the sharing of talent and staff across the sector.  The aim is to support the retention of key capability within the sector, and recognises the importance of councils working together to meet our workforce needs as we move through recovery.
  • Operating like a ‘buy and sell’ initiative, councils can advertise when they have temporary skills to share, or can request interest when they need additional skills to meet a specific temporary need.  The benefits we have seen from virtual working mean geographical restrictions may no longer play a role in councils’ sharing staff, and this initiative looks to allow councils to take advantage of this possibility at this time.

National Transition Period is now terminated

  • The current National Transition Period (NTP) that came into force when the State of National Emergency expired on 13 May. With the move to Alert Level One, the Minister of Civil Defence terminated this transition period.
  • If Group Recovery Managers or someone acting under their authority have exercised powers under the NTP, those Group Recovery Managers must provide a formal report to the National Recovery Manager within THREE days of termination (by 1.53pm on Thursday 11 June).
  • NEMA have provided the factsheet to CDEM Group Managers and are on hand to support transition plans and reporting on any Powers used under the NTP: Factsheet for CDEM Group Managers (PDF, 147KB)

Recovery Reference Group

  • The Recovery Reference Group meeting on 5 June had a large focus on tourism. Given this, and recent targeted funding announcements, we sent you a one-off bulletin on tourism in relation to local government that afternoon.
  • A short overview of the other points of note from the Reference Group meeting are provided below for your information.
  • Jason Krupp provided an overview of the Prime Minister’s Central and Local Government Forum meeting with LGNZ National Council.
  • There will be three sub-fora following this Forum with the Rural and Provincial, Metro and Regional sectors to enable a deeper dive into matters unique to these sectors. LGNZ are currently in the process of setting these meetings up and will communicate with Mayors and Chairs separately on this.
  • Mike Theelen gave his presentation on the impact of the loss of tourism to QLDC and their Recovery workstreams ahead of MBIE’s Tourism discussion (see June 5 Tourism bulletin for further information on these items). – we remind you that applications for the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme close at 5pm on 18 June 2020.
  • In appreciation of insights gained from Mike’s presentation, the Group expressed an interest in sharing insights across councils more broadly. Moving forward, we will invite councils to present to the group on their unique situational experiences of COVID-19 Response and Recovery and will look to utilise this channel, and other channels as appropriate, to share these insights with you.
  • DIA provided an initial draft map of central Government recovery programmes relevant to local government: Recovery work programmes and initiatives (PDF, 169KB)This document will be updated over time as work programmes evolve. Next week we will provide a spreadsheet that gives more detail on the recovery programmes and includes agency contacts for you, as requested by local government members at the last Reference Group.
  • The Recovery Group have also suggested producing a similar overview for local government to help identify areas of collaboration.
  • You can also view greater detail from Treasury on the Foundational Coronavirus Recovery and Response Package released by Cabinet on 11 May 2020, announced on Budget Day and through further recovery initiative announcements since then here: Summary of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund initiatives
  • At this week’s meeting on 12 June we will have attendees from the Ministry for the Environment and the Infrastructure Commission to discuss their mahi with the Group.