Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith

Council takes pandemic governance action

by Paul Campbell

An emergency meeting of the Kaipara District Council has put in place new decision-making arrangements in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, should they be required.

“A range of temporary governance arrangements for Kaipara will ensure effective and continuous decision-making during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Mayor Jason Smith.

“The decisions made by the government to date are broad and will have a major impact on business as usual for the public and private sectors in New Zealand.“

Local Government New Zealand rules would need revision before emergency provisions come into force.

“All local authorities are now planning and preparing to implement business continuity plans, with Kaipara providing this early lead for others to follow,” said Dr Smith.

Last Monday’s council meeting delegated the power to make urgent decisions on behalf of the council or its committees, to the mayor, deputy mayor and Councillor Peter Wethey.

That delegation will only be used for decisions, which are urgent, are recommended to decision-makers by the chief executive, are to be made in a period where it is difficult to convene a physical or electronic council meeting due to the Covid-19 situation or that council is statutorily able to delegate.

The decision also approves the budgeted financial delegation of the chief executive be increased to up to $1 million to ensure contractual arrangements can continue to be met and approves an unbudgeted financial delegation of up to $100,000 for the chief executive to ensure efficient management of unforeseen operational expenses due to Covid-19.

An earlier delegation provided to Councillor Curnow to declare a state of local emergency in the event the mayor may be unavailable remains in force.

“The Covid-19 pandemic could cause significant disruption to council operations and decision-making. Staff are assessing and planning for the impact,” Dr Smith said.

“We’ll have to learn to live alongside the coronavirus, to live with possibly distressing changes and to live with uncertainty.

“Our approach is to maintain service levels as we go forward, and everyone should expect increasing communication as upcoming engagement events are changed or cancelled. Action supported by communication is what’s required from council leadership to keep us rolling and to keep the community up with changing times.”

KDC chief executive Louise Miller said: “Council has robust plans in place to continue providing services if the pandemic situation escalates. Our customer services and libraries remain open at this stage but check for changes on our website before you come in.

“We will take a measured approach to our decisions, assessing how things develop before charting a course that is right for our district and community.

“At this stage, the council will continue to meet, as required under legislation, and we will make the papers and minutes available as usual. We will review public access to council facilities and buildings during the coming week and ensure that the community is kept informed of changes.

“We are reflecting the increasing need to limit group contact so have cancelled events that are scheduled from tomorrow on. That includes the spatial planning meetings that were scheduled from March 20.”