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Wellington Mayor: Tough Decisions Needed Early Over Events

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says the community will have to be ready for some significant changes in routines and tough decisions over public gatherings as the nation responds to the global Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Foster says he will be talking today to Wellington City Council emergency management staff and event organisers with a particular focus on decisions that may be needed on large public events like the Homegrown music festival next weekend and the CubaDupa festival on the weekend of 28-29 March.

“I think the likelihood of those events taking place is lessening by the hour given the seriousness of the coronavirus threat – and I would prefer we make some early decisions to avoid any uncertainty for everyone involved.”

Mayor Foster says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already signalled that steps will be taken to rule out large public gatherings. “I’ll be taking advice on whether we need to pre-empt these steps.”

“I have already spoken with the organiser of the Kilbirnie Mosque gathering this morning. Unticketed events with large numbers of people gathering in a confined space are particularly challenging because if an event attendee is subsequently found to have Covid 19 it will be impossible to track down all the people who might have come in contact with them. The Mosque event has unfortunately had to be cancelled. I have taken the step of publishing my speech focusing on all of us wrapping our arms around our Islamic community at this time and saying that ‘we are one’.

My speech is attached below.

“I am also very aware of the economic impact that the new travel restrictions will have on our business community generally and our tourism, retail and hospitality industries in particular and will be in talks to see how we can assist. That is particularly important as Council’s draft budget will be considered this week.”

Mayor Foster urges Wellingtonians to be vigilant and informed and heed the daily updates from the Ministry of Health. “We all know this is a rapidly-developing situation and that some significant changes in community and individual routines may be necessary in coming days and weeks.”

15 March 2020, 10am

Talking points

Mayoral speech for anniversary event, Kilbirnie Mosque

Tēnā koutou

I am pleased and privileged to be here with you today, on behalf of the people of Wellington.

We join with the Muslim community in solemn remembrance of the horrific events of a year ago.

It is a deeply sombre time for us all, as we remember one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. There’s great sadness still for lost family, friends, neighbours and countrymen and women.

We will never forget them or the hateful act that took them from us.

At the same time, we stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, looking towards a better future.

I believe that as a country we responded at the time with compassion and determination to address the underlying issues.

We need to keep up that momentum, the job is not done. Sadly in our own city we continue to see acts of intolerance and hatred. We see the defacement of Jewish sites with Nazi symbols. We see violent acts of homophobia after the Pride Parade.

These acts are based on ignorance, a lack of understanding or empathy and in a very few cases outright racism. Those things have no place in my Wellington.

So I have asked my staff for advice on what more the Council can do to help stamp them out, working with local groups in the community.

I am also going to re-raise the issue when I next meet with the local Police Commander, which is in a few weeks. I will be asking him what more we can do together to protect the people of Wellington from such attacks.

At the very least, we need to keep talking with each other and learning and appreciating more about each other’s’ cultures.

I would like to finish with a simple message to all Muslims in Wellington.

I want to say again to my Muslim friends, that Wellington is your home. We are proud of our city’s diversity, and warmly embrace all faiths, religions and cultures.

We will do everything we can to make you feel welcome, safe and an integral part of our community.

As the Prime Minister so beautifully put it last year, ‘we are one’.

Kia kaha

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou katoa


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