COVID-19 updates from Environment Canterbury

We are closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation, for the safety of all our staff and our communities. This page will be regularly updated with information and advice on how we are responding and adapting to government directives and the changing situation. Stay safe, stay home. 

Update 6: 1 April 2020

Essential services 

Our list of ‘essential services’ is below, but the practical application of this is still being worked through and may evolve over time: 

  • Natural hazard event monitoring, response and recovery
  • Major natural hazards
  • Flood response, flood protection and land drainage
  • Incident/pollution response including related enforcement
  • Oil spill response
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Compliance monitoring programmes for high risk activities as they relate to human health including sampling and analysing water quality for safe human activities (e.g. drinking water)
  • Maritime navigation safety
  • Public transport (essential travel only)
  • Biosecurity incursion response and eradication
  • Critical support services that allow workers to work remotely
  • Corporate support
  • Crisis Management Team for COVID-19
  • Civil Defence Emergency Management services 

If you have specific questions, please send them in via our contact us page and where they are of general interest, we will answer them on this page so others can see the response.

Read the government’s revised guidance on the classification of essential services.

The Ministry of Transport has also issued guidance for the transport sector on essential services and restriction

See below for more 1 April 2020 updates

 

Draft 2020/21 Annual Plan

A lot has changed since our draft 2020/21 Annual Plan was published four weeks ago for community input.

  • Options are being considered to minimise any impact that our rate requirements have on our communities, while at the same time keeping an eye to the future, when we will have to resume full services – and potentially add more.
  • A zero-rate increase is not off the table, nor is looking at other forms of funding that will help spread the impact of this pandemic. This piece of work is still evolving.
  • Those who gave us feedback on the draft plan will know we were just at the end of our feedback period when we all went into lockdown.
  • We have received over 150 pieces of feedback and we know that people will also be sending in late feedback.
  • Hearings were due to be held on 21 and 22 April and at this stage hearings will not be able to go ahead on these dates.
  • The feedback received to-date will be used to help council settle on the 2020/21 Annual Plan, as well as help define the future Long-Term Plan.
Plan Change 7

Hearings for Plan Change 7 were due to be held on 18 May, but the Independent Hearings Panel has advised this will no longer take place.

The panel will advise a revised timeline; we will keep relevant parties informed as the timeline becomes known.

Regional Policy Statement
Prior to the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, the Minister for the Environment, Hon David Parker, approved the use of the streamlined planning process to make changes to the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement. However, understandably, this has not been notified in the Gazette and so the timeframes set out in the Minister’s Direction have yet to take effect.
The proposed changes to the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement support the actions from the Our Space 2014-48 Greater Christchurch Settlement Pattern Update.
Changes to the Local Government Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act
On Tuesday 24 March our Council established an Emergency Committee of Council to enable delegated decision-making to still occur while the Council was unable to physically meet.
On Thursday 26 March changes came into force affecting the Local Government Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, namely the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020.
This legislation stays in place until the Prime Minister lifts the Epidemic Notice.
In summary, the impact of the new legislation includes how the Council can ‘meet’ (allowing for audio or visual links), how we respond to requests for information (LGOIMA), and when the Environment Select Committee will report back on the Resource Management Amendment Bill (the report-back has been extended to 1 May 2020 at this stage).
We are looking at the practical steps we can now take as a result of the legislation.
Home heating

While we know that smoke from wood burners is a contributor to urban air pollution, it is essential for people to stay warm in their homes, especially as we enter the cooler months.

As ever, we advise you to use good burning technique and good quality wood. Merchants are able to continue delivering wood during the lockdown period, as this is considered an essential service.

Be cautious where you purchase your wood from; recently cut wood will not be ready of this winter. 

Our process for smoky chimney complaints has been revised; 

  • Report as normal, via Snap Send Solve, phone or email.
  • This information will be gathered and collated, but due to our offices being closed and staff being at home, we will not be able to take action until COVID-19 alert levels reduce.
  • The information will be used to inform future action.

We also know that there are a number of you who have not replaced your non-complying burners.

These are unprecedented times and the most important thing is for you stay warm; as such, we will be encouraging the upgrade of these burners following this period of uncertainty.

Please get in touch to find out how we can support you to do this.

Stay warm, stay home. 

 

 Government COVID-19 updates

See the government's dedicated website covid19.govt.nz for the latest updates and advice.

You can also visit the Ministry of Health website for further detailed health information.

Previous updates

Update 5: Wednesday 31 March 2020

Outdoor burning

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has released the following information and advice about outdoor burning, asking people to refrain from doing so during Alert Level 4:

“We urge people to consider the appropriateness of any burning at this time. Any fire is likely to result in a smoke report with more people being at home. This then results in fire crews, the majority of which are volunteer, having to leave their family bubble to investigate.

This in turn has the potential to jeopardise the health and safety of the wider community. The volunteers don’t have a bottomless supply of PPE – especially given the country’s other essential services demands on the same products such as masks, sanitiser, gloves etc.

Fires are by permit only, and we are generally only issuing permits to priority burns such as crop stubble and land management burns. To stop false calls, we are requiring nearly all permit holders to ring the fire communication centre to advise of lighting their burn, to help prevent false calls.

We appreciate people are at home, but we ask they hold off until after the lockdown so we don’t have a whole lot of unnecessary exposure – which is the whole point.”

Please note: the rules around outdoor burning under the Canterbury Regional Air Plan continue to apply.

Update 4. Sunday 29 March 2020

Recreational Boating

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has issued strong guidance to skippers of recreational vessels, urging them to “play their part in the fight against COVID-19 by staying home”.

Potential enforcement action may be a consequence of acting irresponsibly or otherwise putting themselves or others at risk, at any time – including during the current pandemic. Read the full statement from Martitme New Zealand.

Update 3. Thursday 26 March 2020

Agrecovery - rural recycling 

Agrecovery has confirmed that rural recycling collection will pause from 26 March while physical distancing measures are in place. However, it is important to continue recycling.

Keep triple-rinsing containers and store them in a dry place until collection resumes.  You can find updates on the Agrecovery website or follow Agrecovery Rural Recycling on Facebook or @ruralrecycleNZ on Twitter.

Recreational boating

During this period of Alert Level 4 lockdown, the national directive is to stay at home and not undertake any activities where you may unintentionally end up needing emergency services. If you require further advice on how this might affect your recreational boating activities, please go to the following Government websites:

Regional parks

The key points are:

  • The strong message from our prime minister is to stay at home.
  • We understand that it's important to get out for fresh air and exercise, the national directive is to do so locally and keep at least two metres away from other people at all times.
  • A good rule of thumb is if you live nearby (i.e. walking/cycling distance) then it’s OK to use our tracks for your fresh air/exercise. 
  • We can't restrict access to our parks completely, but we are putting in place the measures we can and relying on everyone to do the right thing, in order to keep everyone safe.
  • There is no vehicle access, including trail bikes, to all areas of the Waimakariri River Regional Park.
  • All toilet facilities are closed.
  • The NZMCA camping areas at the Lake Tekapo Regional Park and at The Willows at the Waimakariri River Regional Park are closed.

If you need to contact us, please call 0800 324 636, and ask to speak to the Duty Ranger. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed.

River engineering

We have scaled back all non-essential flood protection and drainage work in our riverbeds. We will be completing works that protect life, homes and critical infrastructure only.

All our flood prediction tools, rain gauges and river flow gauges will continue to operate as an essential service. If you have any questions about works in your area, please contact floodbylaw@ecan.govt.nz

Public transport

There are major changes to bus services due to COVID-19, as follows:

  • All bus services will run to the Sunday timetable and will be for essential travel only.
  • To help protect our drivers and to maintain the service, buses will have rear boarding only and fares will not be required.
  • There are some exceptions and extensions to the normal Sunday timetables, to support people relying on public transport to reach essential services. Full details are available at Metroinfo.
  • The Bus Interchange will be closed and all central city services will use the Manchester St super stops instead.
  • In Timaru, fixed-route buses have stopped, and MyWay is available for essential trips only. People needing to use public transport for the legitimate reasons set out by the Government may book by calling 688 5544.

Please visit Metroinfo for the latest information.

Update 2. Monday 23 March 2020

Following the Prime Ministers' announcement today, Environment Canterbury office buildings are closed to the public until further notice. This includes the MetroInfo counter at the Bus Interchange.  

We will only be operating our offices for essential services staff until further notice.

 All of our staff will be working remotely, but you will still be able to contact our Customer Services staff by calling 0800 324 636 (Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm) or visit our contact us page.

Public transport

Major changes to bus services due to COVID-19:

  • From Thursday 26 March all bus services will run to the Sunday timetable, and will be for essential travel only. To help protect our drivers and to maintain the service, buses will have rear boarding only, and fares will not be required.
  • There are some exceptions and extensions to the normal Sunday timetables, to support people relying on public transport to reach essential services. Full details are available at Metroinfo
  • The Bus Interchange will be closed from Thursday 26 March and all central city services will use the Manchester St super stops instead.
  • In Timaru, fixed route buses stop on Thursday, and MyWay is available for essential trips only. People needing to use public transport for the legitimate reasons set out by the Government may book by calling 688 5544.
Please visit Metroinfo for the latest information.

Regional parks

While our parks are open to walkers/runners and cyclists, the firm message from the Government during COVID-19 Alert Level Four is to stay home, and when you need to get fresh air or exercise, do it close to home and ensure you keep a two-metre distance from other people at all times. To help support this, there will be restricted access to vehicles and shared facilities at our parks:

  • There will be no vehicle access (including trail bikes) to the Waimakariri River Regional Park areas, and toilet blocks will be locked.
  • At the Lake Tekapo Regional Park, the NZMCA caravan park will be closed, along with the toilet facilities.

If you need to contact us, please call 0800 324 636, and ask for the Duty Ranger.

Government COVID-19 updates

See the Government's dedicated website covid19.govt.nz for the latest updates and advice.

You can also visit the Ministry of Health website for further detailed health information. 

Update 1. Friday 20 March 2020

Whilst we are still open for business, we are requesting a few things from our customers to help keep us all well.

  • Please call us on 0800 324 636, or contact us online, as the first option before coming to one of our offices.
  • If you, a household member or someone you’ve been in contact with has been overseas within the last 14 days and are experiencing a fever, cough or shortness of breath, please do not visit any of our offices. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.
  • If you do visit one of our offices, please ensure you sign in at reception with correct contact information so that you are traceable.
  • We are practising safe physical distancing in our offices and request visitors do the same – learn more about this at covid19.govt.nz.

We appreciate your cooperation at this uncertain time – together we can slow the spread.

Public transport

The wellbeing of public transport customers is top of mind and we are working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Health, taking steps to make public transport even safer in light of the COVID-19 situation.

  • To help limit the spread of any virus, those unwell should stay at home.
  • To reduce physical interactions between our customers and staff, passengers are encouraged to immediately reduce the use of cash by using a Metrocard or student Cando card, and to top these up online.

Keep up to date with the latest information from Metroinfo.

Government COVID-19 updates

See the Government's dedicated website covid19.govt.nz for the latest updates and advice.

You can also visit the Ministry of Health website for further detailed health information.