The Waitaki District Council will consider canning a planned rates rise at an emergency council meeting today.

The key focus of the meeting, which replaces the ordinary meeting that was to be held on March 31, is to consider and approve emergency delegations and powers during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, and potentially beyond.

However, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said councillors would also consider dropping a proposed 3.5% rates increase to help people cope with the fallout from the pandemic.

It was likely the public would be given two options to consider in the 2020-21 draft annual plan – no rates rise or a 3.5% rates rise, with details of the possible consequences of both.

Community engagement on the 2020-21 annual plan was due to start on April 1 and run for four weeks, but due to the uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Kircher said that would probably be pushed back at least a week.

There will be no public events or submission hearings and the focus will be on the use of print and social media.

Hearings dates scheduled for May 18 and 19 will now be used for council deliberations.

Councillors met on Tuesday to discuss operations and services and more details of the stimulus and support package announced last week. The council has allocated up to $2 million from its disaster fund for the package.

“Although there has to be discussion and agreement on them, we are considering such initiatives as decreasing or removing the penalties for late payment of rates, postponing payment of rates, potential partial or full remission of rates in extreme hardship situations . bringing forward some council projects with a particular focus on those that need skills that will be filled by some of the people who may be temporarily unemployed as a result of Covid-19, looking at recovery options post-Covid-19 restrictions,” Mr Kircher said.

“The idea is, at [today’s] meeting, to get these things in place.”

The emergency delegations committee will be made up of Mr Kircher (chairman), deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale (deputy chairwoman) and one other councillor whose portfolio aligns to the matter of urgency, in the first instance.

At present, councillors can join a meeting remotely and vote, but quorum has to be met by those in the room.

“It’s all about being able to operate in the situation we’re in, so things can happen and we can keep doing what we need to do,” Mr Kircher said.

Other councillors could still submit their views.

The public cannot attend today’s council meeting.