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Update From Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher Swann

It has been an unusual and hard month but I am so very proud of where we are at nationally and as a region, and our efforts to keep the virus contained. As we move to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 there will be some adjustments within council and also the services we deliver.

Our community remains the priority at the heart of all we do at Gisborne District Council. As the nation prepares to move to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, we too are making our preparations around the services that will be available. Awarua Fitzherbert Street, Bright Street and Te Puia will remain closed but our customer services team are available to help on 0800 653 800. Other public-facing services will be limited but full information can be found on our website.

The Olympic Pool Complex, HB Williams Memorial Library, War Memorial Theatre and Lawson Field Theatre are also still closed through Level 3, with our playgrounds also still off limits. Tairāwhiti Museum will remain closed but staff continue to carry out essential activities on site to ensure the continued safety of taonga.

The majority of our wider staff will continue to work from home but all are available via email. As a Council we endeavour to do as much as we can through Zoom meetings and Skype and while we are not in the office, our teams are working hard to ensure our communities continue to be supported.

The move to Alert Level 3 brings with it a few more changes. Waste Management has confirmed its Innes Street Transfer Station will open on Tuesday (April 28) with the bag cage for missed rubbish also available. Recycling chutes will not be open because they require manual sorting but there will be capacity for glass recycling.

I thank you all for your efforts during this lockdown. Kia kaha Tairāwhiti – there is strength in numbers and we have done incredibly well. Let’s keep that up.

Council reduces proposed rates increase

Council has today agreed to reduce the proposed rates increase for 2020/21 in an effort to lessen the burden on ratepayers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz says Council acknowledges many households and businesses are facing hardship, and at today’s extraordinary meeting, Councillors discussed options for supporting households in need now without over-burdening future ratepayers.

“We agreed to take the proposed rate increase down to 3.26 percent, to be in line with our Long Term Plan. That way we can still assure that essential maintenance and services are taken care of. We do not want to be in a situation in a few years’ time where we are caught out financially because of deferred maintenance.”

An overall rate increase of 0 percent had been considered but it was determined not to be prudent, or in the best interest of future ratepayers.

Council agreed on a number of measures to assist with the financial impacts, including increasing the budget for rates remissions by $1million.

Rates remissions will be made available to ratepayers and businesses who applied and qualified on grounds of hardship as a result of COVID-19. Ratepayers can also apply for a six-month deferral period for instalment 4 of the 2019/20 rates.

Mayor Stoltz encouraged concerned residents to touch base with Council for a case-by-case assessment.

Chief financial officer Pauline Foreman said COVID-19 had already impacted on Council’s budget for the current year (2019/20) and was expected to have a significant impact on the 2020/21 Annual Plan. Work is underway to identify cost savings and efficiency of operations across the entire organisation.

Tairāwhiti seeks funding for ‘shovel-ready’ projects

Council has continued to focus on securing Government funding for infrastructure projects, to the tune of $200 million, to stimulate the district’s economy after restrictions lift.

Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said all the projects Council put forward to Government for funding were ready to start, and were local infrastructure ventures.
“Off the back of our successful Provincial Growth Fund initiatives we’re in a really good position to deliver what we say we are going to do. We have nine projects that are ‘shovel-ready’, that will provide immense benefits to the public and the region,” she said.

“The majority of them are key infrastructure projects, already provided for in our plans and will be a massive boost to the local economy through job creation and support for whānau affected by the lock down."

Stand at dawn this Anzac

Council encourages people to make a poppy and hang it in their window or on their letterbox.

COVID-19 has cancelled the usual Anzac commemorations but the RSA and New Zealand Defence Force are inviting people to join in the national Stand at Dawn at 6am on Saturday 25 April.

People can stand at their gate, their front door, in their lounge or in their driveway to take a moment to remember the nation's fallen.

Radio NZ National will broadcast the official dawn service at 6am. People are encouraged to tune in on their radio, listen live online or on their phone through the free app.

Calling all green-fingered enthusiasts

It seems many people have been making the most of the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown by spending time in their garden and Council is keen to see those efforts recognised.

A new gardening competition has been launched on the back of a suggestion from a member of the public. The competition is open to people of all ages who live in the Council district area.

Mangaheia Bridge to be reopened next week

A huge collective effort by Gisborne District Council contractors means that Mangaheia Bridge no.1 on Tauwhareparae Road will be reopened next week.

An alternative structural repair design has been agreed upon by engineers which cuts the closure time without compromising safety. Contractors are aiming to have the bridge reopened to heavy vehicles on Wednesday 29 April, depending on the concrete pouring and curing process.

The repair was initially expected to take up to six weeks. Tauwhareparae Road is a important route for forestry and farming in Tairāwhiti and the closure has a significant impact on these industries.

Fox Street Trails Opening on Tuesday

There’s good news coming for the region’s keen mountain bikers. Gisborne District Council Emergency Coordination Centre group controller Dave Wilson has confirmed the popular Mountain Bike Park at the Whataupoko Reserve in Fox Street will open on Tuesday (April 28) when New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3.

However, the news comes with a caution. “Now is not the time to hit that new step-up jump you’ve been thinking about trying,” says Mr Wilson. “If we have accidents we will look at closing it again. People need to remember to ride to their ability, keep that 2m social distancing and stay safe.”

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