SHARE
Warning signs . . . Timaru's Information Centre is taking a proactive approach in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with signs asking people with cold or flu symptoms not to enter the building. PHOTO: STU OLDHAM

by George Clark

Restrictions put in place by the Government will be likely to prove challenging for local businesses, Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen says.

The significant scale of the Government’s response this week underlined the seriousness with which it was taking the situation, he said.

On Tuesday the Government unveiled a $12.1billion support package for the New Zealand economy.

Almost half of the cash will be spent on a wage subsidy package for all Covid-19-impacted businesses.

Those fulltime workers eligible for the package will receive $585 per week from the Government, paid in a lump sum package of just over $7000 covering a 12-week period.

The Government will also raise benefits by $25 a week, starting April 1, and double the winter energy payment.

“Providing targeted support to businesses to help keep people in employment during this time should help boost confidence and allay some of the immediate concerns of both business owners and employees alike,” Mr Bowen said.

“As an area with a significant aged population, I also welcome the boost in health spending which, combined with support to help people take the leave they need to isolate and get well, will hopefully be of significant benefit to the community.”

Now the council knew the shape of the Government support package, it would look at its role and ways it could support the community and businesses through this time, he said.

“Council staff are making sure we have comprehensive plans in place to ensure continuity of those services that people use and depend on every day.

“We’re taking this very seriously prior to there being any major effects so that we’re well placed to ensure continuity of service if the situation gets worse.”

An Aoraki Development spokeswoman declined to comment at edition time late on Tuesday.

Protecting local services a priority

A pandemic management group has swung into action to co-ordinate Timaru District Council planning.

Mayor Nigel Bowen said council staff were ensuring comprehensive plans were in place to provide continuity of “the services that people use and depend on every day”.

“We are taking this very seriously prior to there being any major effects so that we’re well placed to ensure continuity of service if the situation gets worse,” Mr Bowen said.

“The community itself also has a major part to play in keeping themselves informed and not only follow the Ministry of Health guidelines to help slow the spread of this and our health services do not get overwhelmed, but ensure they check on vulnerable friends and neighbours, even if it’s just a phone call, and support local businesses where they can.”

The council issued information about its pandemic response on its website on Tuesday.

As the pandemic was likely to progress over time, or if it increased in severity, the council might need to change or limit how people accessed some services, the website said.

It would focus on ensuring essential services were preserved.

“Our approach shouldn’t be taken as a reason to be concerned,” the website said.

“Part of our business continuity planning is to have action plans for a variety of events in place and ready to be activated at an early stage.

“Our plans are based on advice received from the Ministry of Health and associated government bodies.”