United against COVID-19

Published on 26 March 2020

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Today we begin a four-week national lock down to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Except for those working in an essential service, we must all stay home and stop physical interactions with people outside our households. Schools are closed. Non-essential workplaces are closed. Travel is restricted.

This has never happened before in New Zealand, but I believe it is the right thing to do. We need to do all we can to prevent COVID-19 spreading. If we don’t, tens of thousands of ordinary New Zealanders – our neighbours, our workmates, our whanau – will very likely die. We only need look to China, Italy, Spain, Iran and other countries to see what can happen if we do not act. That’s why our government is taking the initiative to prevent the spread of this virus. Remember, we are doing this to keep your family and friends healthy and safe, so I urge everyone to stay calm and to make coordinated decisions with friends and family, so your self-isolation is sustainable.

Being isolated does not mean cutting yourself off completely, we also need to look out for each other. Please check in with family and friends. Make sure they have all they need, including someone to talk to. Check on your neighbours by phone, especially if they are over the age of 70, have health issues or live alone. Keep an eye out for their welfare, but remember to keep a 2-metre distance if you visit them for the sake of their health as well as your own.

It is easy to feel like we are under siege. We are not. There is no need to panic buy. You can still go outside with your children. You can take the dog for a walk and you can go to the supermarket or pharmacy. The goal is to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, so keep your distance from anyone you are not normally in self-isolation with.

Your Council has a vital role to play during this crisis. We will ensure essential services continue to operate. These include water, wastewater, stormwater, drought management, animal management, housing for the elderly, cemeteries, public toilets, the Hokianga Ferry and road maintenance, where it involves public safety. Other services will continue, but in a different form.  Public amenities, such as libraries, public swimming pools, i-SITE information centres, and Council service centres will be closed. However, you can still contact us by emailing ask.us@fndc.govt.nz or phoning 0800 920 029. Most of our staff will be working from home during the four-week lock down, so there will be someone to deal with urgent enquiries. If you can, please defer non-urgent calls until the COVID-19 alert level is reduced by the government.

The next four weeks will be new territory for all of us. Council staff are working hard to ensure essential services continue with minimum interruption. We ask for your patience and understanding as we establish service continuity.  Your elected representatives, alongside senior managers, are also working on options to reduce the impact this unprecedented event will have on our economy and our ratepayers. We will take full advantage of Government assistance to help us through.

Remember, we are all in this together and the best way forward is to be united against COVID-19. Stay safe, be sensible and please be kind to each other.