Internationally, nationally and locally the pandemic is having devastating health impacts and also leading to terribly tough times for many businesses, workers and families.
This Thursday the Council will formally consider a package of immediate actions we can take to soften the economic impacts of the virus on our city, and best set us up for recovery post-Covid.
Last week I foreshadowed a rates payment ‘holiday’ of at least six months for businesses and residents who need financial breathing space.
We are also planning to reduce, remove or freeze a wide range of fees and charges.
Over the weekend our Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, and her senior staff have been working extremely hard gathering data and working on reports that will be considered at Thursday’s meeting.
They have also looked at the financial implications for the Council and our city of a range of possible budget and rates proposals for the 2020/21 Annual Plan – including potential borrowing to fund Council services.
Personally I think the package needs to include looking at intelligent savings opportunities.
These papers are to be posted on the Council’s website this evening.
I urge anyone interested to take the time to read these papers.
On a related topic, there has been media coverage in the past 24 hours of some debate over whether sewage sludge from the Moa Point treatment plant could be temporarily pumped into Cook Strait.
You may recall that two, high-pressure pipes that normally transport the sludge from Moa Point to the Southern Landfill, where it is partially dewatered and then buried, unfortunately broke in late January. They were not yet 25 years old.
Since then a fleet of tanker trucks has ferried the sludge between Moa Point and the landfill while we wait for the broken pipes to be fixed. That is a complex job, involving carefully drawing new pipes through the old ones through almost 2 km of tunnel under Mt Albert.
The task has been impacted by the Covid-19 virus, as both replacement hi-tech pipes and installation crew need to come from Germany.
The cost of this temporary trucking solution is high – at around $100,000 a day, and we’ve had complaints from residents about the 130 trucks a day.
This has naturally prompted some debate, and I have asked officers to provide Councillors with advice and a formal report next week.
I also want to remind you about mountain biking and other activities which we need to be really careful about during the lockdown.
Yesterday a rider was seriously injured after falling off their mountain bike on Hawkins Hill.
That’s not good, for the victim who had to be flown to hospital, and also for the paramedics and hospital staff that had to respond.
The government rules around what kinds of activities we should be doing are really clear.
If you are going to exercise – and it’s important that we all do so – stick to simple outdoor exercise, stay close to home, don’t drive to exercise locations, and avoid activities where you can get injured or lost.
We need emergency services to remain available to support the Covid-19 response, so please use common sense and stick to the rules.
Finally, we’ve had concerns expressed about leaves piling up and blocking roadside drains.
Due to Covid-19, our crews are currently dealing with only essential issues, and sumps are trickier to access due to the number of cars parked along our roadsides.
If you see a covered or blocked sump near your house, and you can safely clear it with a broom across the top, that’s going to help prevent localised flooding.
Just don’t try and reach into any sump – that’s not safe.
As always, thank you everyone for your strong spirit and positive attitude during this unprecedented period of our history.
You look at what is going on around the world – we are doing well, and we all need to keep doing our part.
I’m going to finish with a brief quote from the Queen’s speech this morning.
“I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say that the [New Zealanders] of this generation were as strong as any.”
Kia kaha – be strong – Wellington.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another update.