We’re only at the start of 2020 and already it’s been quite the year for us in Central Hawke’s Bay. We’ve worked through several major incidences including fires, collapsed water bores and shortages. Alongside many other parts of New Zealand, we continue to battle a drought which is a cause of real struggle for the farmers and growers in our rural communities in particular. Now, with the rest of the world, we find ourselves in an entirely unprecedented situation as we prepare to work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. I want you to know that although we’re in the midst of a flurry of uncertainty at the moment, we’re continuing to ensure that we’re there to support the community through both events.
We’ve been keeping an eye on COVID-19 from the get go, working closely with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and Civil Defence to prepare for the virus to arrive locally, should it come to it. We’re following advice from the Ministry of Health and advise all others in the district do the same. The advice they are giving is so simple, but all of us following it closely could be the difference between a major outbreak in our community, or not. We must wash our hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water; stay away from work, crowds or others if we are sick; and make sure to cough or sneeze into our elbow if we need to. There’s been a lot of noise in the media about the virus and I ask that you don’t let this noise drown out the facts. Keep your eye on the Ministry of Health website, be prepared, vigilant and thoughtful of others, but also stay calm and pragmatic.
I’m working with our Chief Executive, Monique Davidson, and other elected members and Council officers to ensure our Business Continuation Plan is robust so that worst come to worst, we can continue to serve you, the community, and minimise the impact to your day-to-day lives as much as we are able.
If we are advised to temporary close our doors to mitigate the spread of the virus, services will continue - you’ll still have access to running water, and your rubbish and recycling will still be collected. On the advice of the New Zealand Government, we are working with our event partners to limit public gatherings where possible, meaning we are unfortunately having to postpone or cancel a number of the larger events we had on our schedule. At the moment, smaller community sessions are going ahead and our facilities are open, however we are prepared to move quickly to change this if we need to.
Although there are yet to be any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hawke’s Bay, I know that there are a number of people who are already feeling its impact, whether that be socially or economically. This includes our rural industry who are grappling with the struggle to move stock and produce internationally, adding extra complexity to the battle they’re already facing against the drought. We know our farmers are under an intense amount of stress and are working closely with partners including the Rural Support Trust to help to alleviate some of this pressure. To those farmers and growers who are struggling - please know that you are not alone. Look out for your neighbours, and if you need help, ask.
On a personal note, I’m considering what self-isolation might look like in my house and making a plan with my family on how we would manage the 14 days. With my three girls at home I’d have a full house, however I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Please look out for those around you, especially the elderly or vulnerable who may not have family around them to offer support or supplies. Now, more than ever, we are relying on each other to get through! If you need to self-isolate, or if you are feeling a little under the weather and are choosing to stay home for the good of those around you, you can still contact Council by phone 24 hours a day, or visit our website for help and advice on our services. If you are well and meeting someone in person, rather than greeting them with a handshake, hongi or hug, try the Kahungunu wave instead.
I’m incredibly proud to be Mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay. We know that our people are proud, resilient, and that we truly care about one another. Take care of yourselves, your whānau and your community by washing your hands, being aware of your social distancing, and staying at home if you aren’t well, or aren’t sure. Together we can beat whatever comes our way.
Together we thrive. E ora ngātahi ana.
Mayor Alex Walker.
20 March 2020
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