Life during lockdown

Published on 17 April 2020

John-Carter_19-46_FNDC-7455-Edit-Edit.jpg

Like you, I have been locked down at home since the Level 4 pandemic restrictions were announced just over three weeks ago. Despite being confined to my bubble, life at Waipapakauri has been hugely busy dealing with two unprecedented crises facing our district. Together, these events are posing significant challenges for Far North residents.

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, our region was already dealing with the most serious drought seen for decades. Five of our water supplies have been subject to stringent Level 4 water restrictions for most of the summer and restrictions remain in place on all Council water supplies. While the situation has eased, temporary emergency water tanks remain on site at Kaikohe, Kaitaia and Rawene – our most seriously affected towns. 

To help get our district through both the lockdown and the water crisis, I have been in regular contact with our iwi leaders through conference calls every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. These leaders have done an outstanding job liaising with their communities to ensure all residents receive the support they require.

There have also been weekly conference calls with chairs of our district’s Business Associations to get a thorough understanding of the impact the lockdown is having on their members. I am helping them to access information they need to get through the pandemic. At the same time, we have been planning promotions to assist businesses get re-established once Level 4 restrictions are relaxed.

Our rural sector has been particularly hard-hit by recent events. I have been working closely with representatives of the Rural Support Group to ensure the effects of the drought on our farming community is discussed and recorded, and that this information is passed to all those helping this sector negotiate the drought and the lockdown.

I have been taking part in regular conference calls and exchanges with local government colleagues across Northland. This includes Civil Defence and other officials working to ensure essential services delivered to our communities, such as water, sewerage and roading, continue uninterrupted during the lockdown.

These calls provide me with an excellent overview on the lockdown and drought impacts. I am sharing that with Ministers, government officials, Local Government New Zealand and other key decisionmakers. I assure you, the information you are giving me is being listened to in Wellington and is helping Cabinet make key decisions about the Government’s response.

Many residents and community groups have also contacted me directly seeking updates and advice. I have done my best to provide answers or find the information you need. I have also been in touch with several individuals who have needed support or reassurance. Sometimes, simply talking issues through can make a world of difference.

Working from home and communicating with leaders and community members through conference and video calls has required some adjustment. Keeping our council functioning at both a governance and operational level remotely like this has also required adaptation.

Significantly for me, the way I communicate with you – Far North residents and ratepayers – has changed. Newspaper columns that I and other councillors traditionally use to communicate with the public are in hiatus and it is uncertain whether these will return. I am now working on new ways to keep you informed of the work the Council and I are undertaking on your behalf. In the meantime, if you know of someone who may require assistance or just a phone call, please email me on John.carter@FNDC.govt.nz