Hamilton City Council staff have been directed to urgently identify “creative ways” to help minimise the economic impact of COVID-19 on the city.
Mayor Paula Southgate and elected Councillors met this morning to discuss potential responses to best support the wider Hamilton community.
“Our key focus right now is on following public health guidelines and making sure we do our part to help stop the spread of the virus. But we know the potential economic impacts mean this is a really worrying time for people,” Mayor Southgate said.
“This is about being steady-as-she-goes but recognising we are facing very unusual circumstances. We are all very keen to ensure that all possible options are explored and we’re directing staff to be creative about that.”
“We are looking with urgency at how we can best support government initiatives, what projects we have in place which could be contenders for funding, and how we can play a role in filling any gaps in our community support.”
“Ensuring we maintain the services our community relies on is vital. Clean water, collecting rubbish and recycling and transport management are keys to supporting the public health response and keeping our city running.”
“No-one should have any concerns about those kinds of services – everything is well under control.”
Southgate said councillors have directed staff to immediately identify ways to reduce any discretionary spending. A rates freeze for the coming year, was in her view, “too broad brush”. Council was more focused on something much more targeted to those people and businesses who were likely to struggle the most.
“Everything is on the table but I need to be absolutely clear that no decisions have been made and that councillors will not make rushed decisions. We need to be sensible, we need to be considered and we need to target any potential help where it is most needed and where it will deliver most benefit.”
Options on the table included working with central Government and other Waikato councils to look at stimulus projects which could generate economic activity.
“We are absolutely mindful of the impact on local businesses and we want to help. This morning, councilllors also expressed strong support for some kind of hardship fund. We also have an existing rates remission and rebates scheme which we could look at extending or adjusting, so these are all options.”
“This morning we asked staff to look at all of these things. Our decisions will impact on everyone in our community, including small businesses, so let’s get it right.”
Southgate said she was heartened by the way in which Hamiltonians were responding to COVID-19.
“We are a very strong and caring community and that’s going to continue,” she said.
“Hamilton is a resilient city with good solid plans in place. I’m absolutely confident we will come through the other side of this. But in the meantime, let’s look out for each other, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable and may be might be feeling very isolated at this time.”