Kia ora Wellington, I hope you’ve enjoyed the Easter weekend – though it has certainly been a very different one.
Today I want to talk about supporting our hospitality sector, about sewage, our wonderful student volunteer army and school – but more about that later.
Today we had sad news that a 5th New Zealander has died as a result of the Covid virus. Our thoughts are with the person’s family.
Much more positively the number of new cases continues to decline, with just 19 new and probable cases reported today. 75 more people are reported as having recovered. That’s great news.
We are on the right track to beat the virus – completely – to save lives, and to minimise the already extensive damage to our economy.
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As you know, a lot of businesses are really hurting and people are losing jobs, or having hours cut back. Our hospitality, retail, entertainment and tourism sectors are being hit particularly hard.
Wellington is widely recognised as having the best Central City in the country. It is the heart of the whole region, and of course our nation’s Capital. Hospitality, retail, arts and events are all critical to that.
We are going to need to work very hard to get that heart beating again when we emerge from lockdown. That means doing all we can to draw people back to town – safely.
Last Thursday your Council approved a Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan with a wide range of measures to help businesses and employees.
The approved measures include:
- Rates relief to allow eligible commercial ratepayers to defer their June rates, without penalty, for at least six months.
- Not charging, and in some cases refunding food and alcohol licence fees.
- Stopping fees for outdoor dining areas on public footpaths for the duration of the pandemic.
We are also responding to the call for emergency off-licences to be made available for bars and cafes. We are asking the government to change laws to allow this to happen. This is the only way many businesses will be able to trade at Level 3, but it also helps at any level below that.
Sewage – I’ve spoken before about the complex and expensive fix resulting from the break in the sewer tunnel which runs for 1.8 km under Mt Albert. Council will be asked to formally approve those costs this Thursday, and spread them over 10 years. The estimated cost is up to $16 million all up for trucking and replacement pipes.
The repair is complex and risky and we have had to get special dispensation to bring in skilled personnel from Germany where the new piping is made. They will leave Germany tomorrow, and will spend two weeks in quarantine when they arrive. The repair itself involves drawing a 2km new pipe through the existing concrete sleeve. All going well it will be completed in mid May.
On another note, the Student Volunteer Army, with New World, has set up a new grocery delivery service. This is for people over 65, the medically vulnerable and our wonderful healthcare works and their families.
Also this week, good news for parents like me. The remote school term starts on the 15th April with online learning and TV education during school hours. This is available on TVNZ2+1, TVNZ on Demand, Sky Channel 502 and Maori Television in Te Reo.
Paper resources are being sent to homes where children can’t access a computer or the internet.
I’ll finish by re-emphasizing the most important message for all of us. Overall our numbers are promising, and we should all be proud of the part we have played in minimising transmission of this terrible virus.
But as the Prime Minister said, while we are in a much better position than many other countries, we cannot squander that position now. We cannot be complacent; we must dig deep, stick to the rules, and know that we will get through this together.
Wellington, you’re doing a great job, keep up the good work.