Update - 29 April 2020

COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit main page

Advice and guidance on 2020/21 annual plan and rate setting

Further advice and guidance is now available on 2020/21 annual plan and rate setting following the SOLGM/Simpson Grierson webinar on 21 April 2020.

Simpson Grierson has provided written advice addressing when a change to the long-term plan (LTP) becomes ‘significant’ or ‘material’ and the implications for council decision-making and compliance with statutory consultation requirements. A brief summary of the advice is below.

Requirements for identifying what is significant or material have not been relaxed. This means that, on the face of it, the assessment should not be influenced by Covid-19 pressures or timing difficulties. However, current circumstances are unusual and may be a factor in the assessment of what is significant or material.

If consultation has already occurred, any new options that depart from what has already been consulted on need to be assessed in terms of whether they:

  • are a significant or material change from the options consulted on;
  • are a significant or material change from the LTP; or
  • arise from submissions on the consultation document.

This consultation assessment requirement applies regardless of whether the change being considered to the overall level of rates change, the projects that make up the work programme for 2020/21, or how funding sources are deployed. There are examples in the attached document that may assist councils work through this assessment.

At some point in the near future councils will have to draw a line in the sand to make the final decisions as to what its annual plan is for 2020/21. Councils should continue to focus on the best interests of their community in deciding where to draw the line and be ready to explain this in any consultation/other engagement.

If, after considering the advice attached, your council is uncertain about how best to proceed then we recommend that you seek your own advice on your particular issues or circumstances.

Governance workstream update – temporary legislation

Ministers have approved progressing the following temporary legislative changes to address issues arising from the COVID-19 emergency. 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.

Changes to local government by-election timing – including establishing a temporary Order in Council mechanism for making further changes to by-election timing and enabling local authority chief executives to postpone any further by-elections where necessary in response to COVID-19 restrictions. This is to ensure that qualified people have a reasonable and equal opportunity to stand as candidates, nominate candidates and vote in local by-elections.

Streamlining the process for amending a long-term plan – so that, where an amendment to the long-term plan is needed as a result of COVID-19 response or recovery before the 30 June 2020 deadline for adopting an annual plan, the consultation document can be adopted without an audit report if necessary to meet the deadline.

Public notices - removing from various local government Acts the strict requirement that a public notice be placed in a newspaper circulating in the district, but requiring internet publication in all cases. There is a risk that disruption to local newspaper distribution during the COVID-19 response may make it unreasonably expensive or ineffective to publish in newspapers.

Special Consultative Procedure - adding flexibility so that, to the extent that is reasonably necessary in the circumstances, the consultation period can be reduced below the current minimum of one month and/or hearings of submitters are not required.

Revocation of bylaws – temporarily suspending the provision that automatically revokes bylaws after 2 further years if they were not renewed within the required period. The suspension of this provision will be in place until 30 June 2021 meaning that any bylaws that would be automatically revoked before this date will continue in force until then.

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.

This will likely mean there will be changes to the communications and work programme of the Response Unit. However, we will also ensure we maintain the ability to respond quickly, should further outbreaks of COVID-19 occur as we move down through Alert Levels.

We will look to maintain our close partnership across DIA, SOLGM, LGNZ and NEMA.

We will communicate further information on these changes in the near future.

Guidance on council services and CDEM groups

The Response Unit has previously provided guidance on council services and operations at Alert Level 3. This guidance was updated to include guidance developed by NEMA on CDEM arrangements at Alert Level 3.

We have posted this guidance on the COVID-19 Local Government Response Unit webpage.

This guidance has been based on the decisions the Government has made for Alert Level 3. We hope it will help councils manage the transition to Alert Level 3 and support consistency in the delivery of local government services across New Zealand.

We continue to work to provide guidance on council services at Alert Level 2 as soon as possible to support you in your planning for this next step, whenever it may be.

If you have any enquiries around council services/operations at Level 3 please send these enquiries to the Response Unit through to this COVID-19 inbox or your regular SOLGM/LGNZ/DIA contacts.

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 information on the COVID-19 website.

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