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A letter to the community from Mayor Alex Walker: Thinking Forward

Alex

It’s fair to say that for the vast majority of us, these past few weeks have been spent navigating our new normal that is the Alert Level 4 lockdown and I thought we were starting to make some sense of it. But with the beginning of the new school term this week, the realities of being a working mother with three children at “home school” is very real to me, as it is to many others! Remote learning is exciting and innovative but it certainly has its challenges! On the other hand, some in our community have found themselves under an immense amount of financial stress resulting from job loss or loss of business revenue – through no fault of their own. While this might seem unreal while we are still in the intense realities of Level 4, it is time for us to lift our eyes and start thinking forward to the post-Covid future. Having a plan gives us some security and is something we can all do.

In particular I want to speak to our business community. Whether you are an essential business, a non-essential business that has been closed, or one in which you have been able to work from home, it is crucial that you start to do some homework about what operating in a Level 3 environment might look like. Your customers, your systems, your finances, your staff – all require  some thought and planning. This isn’t easy – particularly when things still feel so uncertain and change so quickly – but taking the time to do this now will definitely help. Stay up-to-date with developments on both the covid19.govt.nz and business.govt.nz websites.

As a Council, we are preparing for what Central Hawke’s Bay will look like in the months following lockdown, ensuring that the community emerges strong, and united. Last week at our Meeting of Council two major topics in the agenda focused on what Council will do to minimise the economic impact to the current emergency situations of COVID-19 and the Drought on you and our local businesses. This included the adoption of an 18 step economic recovery plan which consists of real and practical measures that will make a tangible difference in helping our community get back on its feet. You can read the steps on the Council website, here.

The other major topic on the agenda was about our business plan, including budget and rates for the coming financial year – called the Annual Plan. We endorsed the amendment of the draft annual plan and reduced the planned 2020/21 annual rates increase from what was intended to be 5.2% down to 3.8%. We didn’t make this decision lightly. Critically, we know how important it is to strike the right balance between offering some immediate term relief for those currently affected, without significantly burdening future generations. Whether you are a farmer enduring the drought, or a business owner/employee unable to work due to the current shut down, we understand the losses in income are causing you significant financial hardship and we are there to help in many different ways.

Many of you will now have received this quarter’s rates invoice in the post. I want to reiterate my previous message and acknowledge that for most this is extremely unwelcome. Unfortunately, the collection of rates is a necessity – they are required to provide lifeline services including water and waste. However, my commitment to you is that everyone who needs financial help will have access to it. Work and Income NZ, Accommodation Supplements and Wage Subsidies are available, but Council will also work with anyone on a one-to-one basis to minimise the stress and the financial burden. Our staff will not be charging rates penalties, and have access to things like payment plans and postponement policies that may help individuals in the short-term. Please make contact with the Rates Department to discuss your personal situation.

Together we thrive. E ora ngātahi ana.

 

Mayor Alex Walker.

 

16 April 2020

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