More Horizons Regional Council services brought online under Alert Level 3

While most of Horizons Regional Council staff have been working from home or within the Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) during Alert Level 4, more services will be brought back online from 28 April 2020.

Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney says that for the past four to five weeks the regional council has been primarily focused on delivering essential services such as operating the ECC, the ability to respond to a simultaneous emergency event, providing passenger transport for essential workers and access to essential services, processing emergency consents, responding to serious environmental incidents, and assisting with the planning for regional recovery.

“Under Level 3, Regional House and our Service Centres throughout the region remain closed to the public. Our call centre is, however, open and can be called on 0508 800 800,” says Mr McCartney.

“From Tuesday, 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. And there will also be some capacity to restart pest plant enquiry response, and possum control operations with external contractors.

“Horizons Regional Park, 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 from Tuesday, however our biodiversity and biosecurity teams will be unable to work in this area for the time being.

“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.

“While a lot of our services will be back online, our staff are required to work from home wherever possible; only a few staff will be physically returning to the office. Field work that can be completed without contact with others will resume and will be done in a COVID-19 compliant way.

“We ask that the public and landowners respect that during Alert Level 3 our teams are unable to engage in the way we normally would.

“Irrespective of what we bring online and when, the health and safety of our staff and customers is of the utmost importance. All returning to work staff will have COVID-19 standard operating procedures to adhere to and will undertake hazard management and induction prior to recommencing their roles.

“Collectively, our region has done great work under Alert Level 4, which remains in place until the end of the long weekend. Alert Level 3 still brings with it restrictions that we strive to adhere to as the country continues to strive for the elimination of COVID-19.”