One of the really remarkable things to come out of our country’s response to COVID-19 that I’ve really admired has been the way everyone has worked together to get through. We’ve often heard the reference about our team of five-million, and for the vast majority it appears we are doing everything we can to protect each other, which is fantastic to see.
Your Council too has been working to provide a cohesive and encompassing recovery response, and we continue to adapt as the situation rapidly evolves to better support our community.
When the Alert Level Four was announced two months ago, our Civil Defence team jumped into action to provide urgent welfare support for our most vulnerable residents. The team are still operating, with calls from the community coming in and being handled as necessary.
Staff have also been assisting other community initiatives such as delivering meals on wheels, grocery and pharmacy shopping for vulnerable citizens, telephoning a number of over-70s across Canterbury to check they were doing ok, and helping to keep the COVID-19 testing facility clean at the Ashburton Hospital.
With economic unease predicted in the months ahead, Councillors voted to decrease the proposed rates increase for the 2020/21 year from 4.88 per cent, to 2.5 per cent to ease that financial burden. They also approved a new measure that allows people experiencing hardship to avoid a late penalty fee on their rates bill, even if they’ve already received this assistance in the last 24 months.
Importantly, the Council has established a COVID-19 Economic Recovery Advisory Group with representatives from the diverse business sectors across the district. The group are tasked with sharing information, ideas and initiatives to support the district through the pandemic and transitioning back to a strong and functioning local economy.
One initiative I’m sure you’ll have seen is the Mid Canterbury Open for Business campaign MidCanOpenForBiz.nz. We developed this campaign to encourage everyone to shop local wherever possible for the benefit of our community. Hundreds of businesses have already registered on the free online business directory, helping you to learn who is open and what they’re offering. Let’s continue to aid our own recovery by backing our local businesses and helping them to stay open and provide jobs.
Key infrastructure projects are continuing to be progressed that will future-proof our district and support growth in the short and mid-term recovery phase. These include the Ashburton CBD Streetscape Revitalisation, Rakaia Salmon Site upgrades and the Ashburton River Crossing and Pump Station project.
All of these measures are designed to address the range of supports required throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and further on into our recovery. As the Prime Minister points out, we are a large team all working towards a common goal, and your Council is playing its part too to help us get there.