Waimakariri District Council plans for life after Covid-19 lockdown

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By David Hill

The Waimakariri District Council has begun planning for the district’s recovery, when the Covid-19 lockdown ends.

With the country about to move into alert level three next week, councillors called on staff to prepare a recovery plan at a Zoom council meeting on Tuesday afternoon (April 21), which was live streamed on Youtube.

Chief executive Jim Palmer said the Covid-19 pandemic was creating set impacts on our district and our world that we haven’t seen for some time

“The impacts are not only from a health point of view, but there is also an economic impact and we are feeling the effects immediately with the closure of businesses.”

He said the impacts of Covid-19 were likely to “last for years”, with border restrictions and shutdowns causing significant impacts around the world.

He predicted the impact on Waimakariri could be smaller than other districts around the region, which had a greater reliance on tourism

“We have strong population growth, comparatively low average property prices and our rural sector puts us in a good position.”

But the impact was being felt in the district, with many businesses unable to operate during the lockdown.

It was estimated that around 40 to 45 percent of the local workforce, or around 8000 people, were employed in essential services, which meant around 12,000 have been able to work under alert level four.

“We’ve got anecdotal stories of people on reduced hours or likely to lose their jobs, and a lot of our people work in Christchurch, so we will be looking at developments in both districts closely.”

Mr Palmer said the council already had an estimated loss of $1.5 million due to Covid-19, which included the loss of revenue from the closing of the aquatic centres and reduced numbers of building consents and inspections, while working remotely had added some costs.

“It will take us three months to fully assess the overall cost and to explore how much might be recoverable from the government.”

Councillors asked staff to draft a recovery plan which recognised social, environmental, economic and cultural well being, was “people-centric”, and presented options for the council to lead in the district’s economic and social recovery.

Rates relief measures were also considered and councillors voted to offer a “rental holiday” to sports clubs, community groups, hospitality and commercial business which leased council facilities and have been unable to operate during the lockdown.