Covid-19 still looming large

Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Before the October local body elections, Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley has highlighted seven issues, challenges and opportunities the district has ahead of it, in a pre-election report. This week, he shares his thoughts with the Oamaru Mail on Covid-19 and its effects on council operations and the district.

This year marks the first local government elections since the rise of Covid-19 in early 2020.

Covid continues to affect the way we live our lives, the cost of living, the availability of goods and services, and the ability to get people to fill roles in local businesses and within council.

While we are learning to live within a new and ever-changing world, the impact of Covid on the Waitaki District has been especially evident in the tourism, retail and hospitality industries.

Nationally, we all notice the wider impacts of Covid on supply chains.

The impacts of related restrictions on council included the temporary closure of our libraries, Aquatic Centre, Opera House, museum and gallery.

There were also reduced funds available for council services, as we sought to support local businesses and manage the disruption and delays in delivering several of our projects.

Since the start of Covid restrictions, Waitaki residents have spent an increased amount of household income on groceries, liquor, takeaways and pharmaceuticals. With some of the social and psychosocial impacts of Covid evident, the deeper impacts on our community may take years to fully present.

What can the council do about it?

We have provided different working arrangements and adapted our technologies to ensure council staff can still provide services to the community remotely.

In 2020›21, we delivered an overall zero rates increase and provided free parking in Oamaru for six months. We continue to offer two hours of free parking per day to also encourage shoppers into the CBD to support our local businesses.

In 2020, council also awarded more than $260,000 from the Support & Stimulus Fund that was established to either fund or co›fund projects to support groups or cope with the impacts of Covid. This was also to increase the district’s economic and social resilience through the pandemic.

We understand the impacts and challenges of Covid will continue over the next few years, and there will be more work to do. We will continue to support our community through the recovery, and further develop council and our district’s ability to respond and adapt quickly to any changes in circumstance.

By voting for the candidates you want as your mayor, councillors and on your community board, on October 8, you have the opportunity to shape the future of your community, your district, and your council.

Want to know more? Our Pre-election Report (available on the council’s website) informs voters and candidates of the key issues, opportunities and challenges facing Waitaki, ahead of this year’s local government elections.