COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday 13 May. 

At Alert Level 2 we must continue to be vigilant. Visit to find out more, including what this means for you.

As countries and organisations collectively respond to this pandemic, it's important that we share the practical steps Horizons is taking to keep our people and customers safe.

Jump to:

Welfare and support
How we're responding
Getting back up and running
Service centres
Public transport
Total Mobility
Consents and consent monitoring
Council meetings and live-streaming
River Management scheme meetings

Welfare and support

Under Alert Level 2, the Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MWCDEM) Group welfare helpline, that was set up to provide local support at Levels 4 and 3, directs people to organisations who can provide the support they need. 

Find out more about welfare and support services during the lockdown.

How we're responding

While the Ministry of Health is the lead agency for a pandemic response, Civil Defence has a role to play in ensuring all responding agencies are connected.

For the Horizons Region, this includes four district health boards – MidCentral, Whanganui, Lakes and Waikato – the region’s city and district councils, emergency services, and government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development.

As the MWCDEM Group lead, Horizons activated our Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in Palmerston North on 16 March 2020 at Level 2, and raised this to Level 3 on 24 March.

The ECC is responsible for the regional coordination of the national pandemic response. Functions include intelligence, planning, operations, logistics, welfare and public information management.

Getting back up and running

Our focus under Alert Level 4 was on delivering essential services, including operating our Emergency Coordination Centre, passenger transport, emergency consent processing and pollution response for serious environmental incidents. 

However, we are now turning our attention to what else we can bring online, while ensuring we meet the pandemic alert level guidelines and the areas they’re applicable to.

Alert Level 3 will now enable us to complete inspections and preparation of our flood protection and data monitoring networks. This includes drain clearance, pump maintenance, and stopbank repairs and testing equipment in preparation for potential floods over winter.

Our water quality and quantity science, sampling and monitoring, which has been limited over the past month, will be reinstated with an aim to getting this fully back online in the next few weeks. While our freshwater management and partnerships team will resume site visits, with a particular focus on stream fencing and riparian planting.

Works to prepare for the winter planting season across forestry and hill country erosion programmes will also resume. This includes getting nurseries and forestry contractors back to work, and our land management advisors will be back in the field to complete sustainable land use initiative works claims, and to assess environmental grant work.

Biosecurity programmes, including pest plants control, pest animal monitoring, will recommence. There will also be some capacity to restart pest plant enquiry response, and possum control operations with external contractors.

Tōtara Reserve remains closed as we need to assess the site for things such as fallen trees before our scheduled work can resume and the tracks are deemed safe for the public. We have had confirmation from the Department of Conservation that Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge tracks will open under Level 3, however our biodiversity and biosecurity teams will be unable to work in this area for the time being.

Horizons service centres

Please note that our service centres remain closed to the public until further notice. We recommend you make any enquires or payments online if possible. If you don't have access to email, you can give us a call on 0508 800 800.

Public transport

At Alert Level 2, public transport is mostly back to regular timetables. Please see our bus notices page for full timetable information.

Government advice is that at Alert Level 2, people can leave home to do more things, but should follow public health measures and consider others around them. In particular, people should keep their distance from people they do not know. This includes onboard public transport.

Because of this, the network’s capacity is restricted, across both urban and school services.

Physical distancing must be observed on our bus services, with 1 metre distance required between passengers, which means there will only be approximately 40% of normal seated capacity – or around 25% of normal total capacity. Please note that standing on urban buses will not be allowed while we are at Alert Level 2.

Signage on board buses will guide you to where you can and cannot sit based on physical distancing restrictions.

If you have a choice, we ask that you avoid travelling at our peak times of 7am - 9am and 2.30pm – 5.30pm, weekdays.

We ask that parents remain with students at bus stops in case the bus is at capacity, and we recommend that they consider alternative ways for their children to get to school. We know this is a challenging situation for families which rely on bus services.

We really appreciate everyone’s patience and kindness as we work within the limitations in place to keep everyone safe.

Track your journey

Keeping everyone safe is a top priority for Horizons and bus operators.

Here in New Zealand, we are a team of five million. Let’s work together – you can help by providing your contact tracing information whenever you use public transport.

Tracking your journey by checking in supports early detection of suspected cases to prevent potential onward transmission of the virus.

Contact tracing, as well as testing and quarantine/isolation measures, is critical in supporting New Zealand’s mission to eliminate COVID-19.

The importance of contact tracing is increasing as New Zealand moves through to lower alert levels.
How do I provide journey tracing information?

When you use public transport, the Ministry of Health asks that you record your travel on our tracing form, fill in this form or you can call us on 0508 800 800, and we will register your trip for you.

How does journey tracing work?

When there is a suspected, confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, a contact tracing process will occur to:

  • identify all ‘close contacts’ of the case – so that these people can be quarantined/isolated (and tested if required);
  • and identify ‘casual contacts’, of the case, and ask them to be tested if they have (or develop) symptoms of COVID-19.

Contact tracing is undertaken by your local Public Health Unit, or by the National Close Contact Service. The information you provide when registering your travel is confidential and will only be used for this purpose.

Physical distancing onboard vehicles

Under Alert Level 2, physical distancing requirements apply when travelling in public transport, apart from when travelling with people you know.

We have provided stickers onboard, on each seat, to make it really clear where you can sit.  Of course, this does significantly reduce capacity on each vehicle. Most buses are limited to 40% of normal seated capacity – or around 25% of normal total capacity, with standing passengers not permitted under Level 2. 

Physical distancing of 2 metres must still be observed at all bus stops.

We ask that you avoid travelling at peak times unless you need to for work or school.

Front door accessibility

Under Alert Level 2, you can use the front door as well as the rear door of the bus for boarding.

Keeping everyone safe 

As part of our COVID-19 response, we are:
  • asking passengers to follow the guidelines on self-isolation
  • asking passengers to maintain distance from other passengers and the driver
  • cleaning our buses on a regular basis and stepping up the cleaning of surfaces like handrails, stop buttons, and seat backs.
  • blocking seats closest to the drivers from being used.

Some tips from the Ministry of Health:
  • If you are unwell stay home.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough or sneeze by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with more than 60 percent alcohol.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.


Consents and consent monitoring

Consents processing will resume, while consents monitoring is being done from the office and by consent officers continuing to work remotely. However, monitoring will recommence for the Mercury Windfarm next week.

Please note that, with our offices closed, we are unable to accept physical copies of applications, or physical payment of deposit fees. We are encouraging any applicants to lodge consents and pay deposits electronically, rather than by post, with applications sent to

Find out more in our Apply for consent section.

As an existing resource consent holder, you may have conditions in your consent that require you to undertake monitoring. If you are unable to undertake that monitoring due to the shutdown, please note that Horizons Regional Council will not consider this as a non-compliance.

You may also have other conditions of your consent that you are unable to meet due to being confined in lock-down. If this is the case please contact your designated Consents Monitoring Officer, and also send an email to

Please contact the pollution hotline via 0508 800 800 if the matter is urgent.

Find out more in our Consents monitoring section.

Council meetings and live-streaming

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, council meetings cannot be held in their normal form. Instead, Parliament has removed the need for council to have a physical quorum, enabling council members to attend meetings through teleconferencing and be counted as present. 

On the day of Regional Council meetings, we will live stream the meeting directly to our Facebook page. The recordings will remain on our Facebook page if you would like to watch them post-meeting.

Council held its first 'virtual' meeting on Tuesday 7 April 2020, during which it was decided to revise our 2020-21 Annual Plan. While this will no longer be officially consulted on, ways for our community to provide feedback are being explored, with the aim to adopt the Plan by late May. The meeting also included a discussion around possible rates relief for 2020-21.

Read our latest media release, or watch the meeting on Facebook for more information.