The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council has today announced the adoption of an economic recovery plan, to help the district respond to the twin blows of COVID-19 and the ongoing drought.
The comprehensive plan features 18 action points that together, will see the delivery of emergency welfare, a softening of the financial blow, an economic recovery framework and fiscal stimulus packages to ensure the response has a long-term view.
Central Hawke’s Bay District Council District Mayor, Alex Walker, says the decision was simply a no brainer, and something the Council is passionate about putting into action.
“Our district, like many others, is currently weathering something of a perfect storm with these overlapping emergency situations.
“The on-going drought conditions coupled with the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions are having a devastating effect on the economic and social well-being of our communities, and this is something we take with the utmost seriousness.”
She says the emergency welfare response has already commenced, with the Council leading the Civil Defence response for Central Hawke’s Bay.
“We have created an economic recovery and drought function within the Civil Defence structure, and we’re liaising directly with regional counterparts to align work programmes.
“We have worked collaboratively with local Taiwhenua, to ensure appropriate engagement and ‘tautoko’ (support) for hapū and mana whenua as part of this process.
She says the Council is realistic about the likely long-term impact on communities, and has adopted a range of initiatives in response to this.
“Part of this includes a more lenient approach in terms of our rate payment policies, details of which are all outlined in the full recovery action plan.”
Some initiatives have been targeted to address those suffering the most significantly. As an example, Council will look to utilise $200,000 from its ‘Catastrophic Events Fund’ to fund the creation of a new Rates Rebate Fund.
“This will enable us to give a $200 rebate for up to 1000 ratepayers who are most impacted by the financial effects of COVID-19.”
Council staff will begin to develop a Policy Framework to implement and manage this process, including eligibility.
Further work is in the pipeline to soften the financial blow, including a revision of the draft annual plan to ensure the annual rates increase will be kept as low as possible for the 2020/21 financial year, without compromising service levels.
Council will work in partnership with Centralines to create a Central Hawke’s Bay Recovery Task Force, which will look at developing and supporting community/industry led recovery projects to encourage fiscal stimulus in the face of such challenging times for the district.
Mayor Walker says the Council is also investigating bringing forward or increasing parts of the District’s capital programme to stimulate business and create jobs.
“This will see us working closely with government officials on how we ensure our District is part of any Hawke’s Bay regional economic stimulus packages to help reduce social and economic impacts.
“The opportunities range across #thebigwaterstory, wastewater, roading, housing and other transformational community infrastructure projects linked to Project Thrive.”
As part of this, Council has already progressed additional Provincial Growth Fund applications for roading and other infrastructure projects.
Looking to the longer term, the development of a revised and reprioritised Economic Development Action plan and work programme will continue.
Mayor Walker, says the Council is fiercely dedicated to the cause of ensuring its district, and everyone in it, recovers as quickly as possible.
“We are deeply empathetic to the hardship being felt by so many at present and we want the people of Central Hawke’s Bay to know we are all in this together, and we are in it for the long haul.”
She says as a Council, they take responsibility of providing a trusted source of guidance, direction and leadership in times like this, and that is a role they consider themselves very privileged to hold.
“We will lead Central Hawke’s Bay through this and as a district - we will continue to thrive.”
To read the Economic Recovery Plan click here.
15 April 2020
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