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QLDC Well Prepared To Keep Services Running When Omicron Arrives

Keeping the wheels turning on services to the community is something Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has been planning for since before the summer break, says Chief Executive Mike Theelen.

“Whether it’s the Delta variant or Omicron, Council needs to keep providing essential services to the community. These include collecting and processing recycling and waste, maintaining water supply and wastewater infrastructure, responding to wandering dogs, repairing local roads, processing resource and building consent applications, and much more. There’s also maintaining and operating our district’s network of community facilities like parks and playgrounds, sport and recreation facilities, libraries and community venues.”

Since the start of the global pandemic QLDC has been operating a business continuity planning team drawn from across the organisation, focused on how Council can ensure it is still able to meet the needs of local communities. The move to the red COVID Protection Framework setting was being planned for well ahead of the summer break.

“To be honest, we had anticipated that we would be moving to red during the summer holiday, so all Council’s plans and messaging were prepared in advance. We are concerned that a significant outbreak here could mean we don’t have the staff available to maintain levels of service. So that planning has enabled us to respond to this concern and immediately move to an operating model which sees a maximum office capacity limit to ensure physical distancing and reduce the risk of the workplace becoming a ‘super spreader’ environment. Many teams are also working in ‘bubbles’ so if or when we do see infection and the need to isolate, it limits the contacts affected. The goal here is to make sure we always have staff available to deliver the services needed by locals,” added Mr Theelen.

While the Ministry of Health is the lead agency responding to the pandemic, Council will continue to help inform the community by sharing important messaging on changing requirements and mandates, as well as updates on levels of service.

Despite this planning and change in working models, locals should be prepared for possible temporary facilities closures or reduced levels of service.

“COVID modellers are currently predicting rapid growth in case numbers, with daily cases in the thousands within weeks. Overseas we’ve seen significant numbers of cases, and this has led to staff shortages across all industries with some reporting up to 25% of their workforce out of action at any time. So, there is a possibility that due to similar staff shortages through illness or the need to isolate we may need to temporarily close a gym or a library, limit our reception desks at Council offices, or pause some services. However, the Council’s priority will be on maintaining the critical lifeline services and working closely with our contractors to ensure we can keep delivering these at all times. Should any temporary closures or reductions in service be necessary, I would ask for patience and a bit of kindness. At the end of last year, we saw some unacceptable behaviour towards Council staff including abusive and threatening language, and that is never ok. Council staff are just doing their jobs and potentially doing them in some pretty tough circumstances. Please remember we are all in this together and doing our best to keep supporting and providing services to the community,” said Mr Theelen.

Details regarding Council services under the various COVID Protection Framework settings can be found on the QLDC website: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/community/emergency-management/covid-19-red-light

Council is also currently waiting on guidance from Central Government regarding managing activities with statutory deadlines during any significant Omicron outbreak.

Any changes to availability of facilities and levels of services will be notified should they be necessary.

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