New Zealand authorities are working to prevent a widespread community outbreak of Covid-19. Here is the latest information on how the containment measures are impacting on Palmerston North City Council services, facilities and community events.
Palmerston North pools close
22 March: Palmerston North’s three public pools, and two public paddling pools, are now closed in order to stay ahead in protecting our community in the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation.
The decision to close The Lido, Freyberg and Splashhurst was made with our operators, Community Leisure Management (CLM).
The Victoria Esplanade and Memorial Park paddling pools will also be emptied.
Council Chief Executive, Heather Shotter, says the decision is another sensible step Council is taking to keep our community safe.
“We’d hoped to be able to keep the pools open so our community had a place for exercise or for leisure but to do that we’d have to implement very strict measures that we believe would have been a deterrent for visitors. We, therefore, made the prudent decision to close the pools for the health and wellbeing of our employees and visitors.”
She says Council and CLM are now having discussions about how they could jointly offer exercise programmes for our residents while following Ministry of Health guidelines.
Ms Shotter is encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the city’s beautiful scenery instead.
“All of our parks, walkways and playgrounds remain open, so we’d encourage our residents to try somewhere new to exercise or enjoy some time outdoors.”
She says Council is, however, recommending that people wash their hands before and after using playgrounds in the city and continue to practice physical distancing.
Palmerston North Libraries and community centres now closed
21 March: The Palmerston North City Council has made the tough decision to close all of the city's libraries and community centres from now until 28 April to help protect our community from Covid-19. This includes mobile libraries, Youth Space and Blueprint (the City Library Makerspace).
Council Chief Executive, Heather Shotter, says while the government’s alert level is currently at level two and we know how much our residents value our libraries, we are taking pre-emptive action to minimise risks to our community.
“Our libraries are used by more than 17,000 members of our community every week, but the health and wellbeing of our employees and our community is the most important thing.
“While it was a hard decision to make to close our libraries, especially with the school holidays coming up, we know we’ve made the right call, and we are confident our community will agree this is a prudent step at this time,” she says.
Check-out times will be automatically extended, and overdue fees waived. Residents are being asked to hold onto all currently checked out items, as the return slots in branches or book bins will be closed.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to make use of the Libraries’ digital offerings while the physical facilities are closed.
“Our digital library remains open, which means residents have access to more than 35,000 e-books, e-audiobooks, magazines, and the online learning service. The Children’s Digital Library offers movies, homework help and virtual story time,” says Ms Shotter.
Our library team have been notified, and we are looking at re-deploying them into other Council teams.
Community Centres and other facilities also close
Awapuni, Kelvin Grove, Milson, Rangiora, Highbury, Ashhurst and Pacifika Community Centres are now closed. The Community Leisure Centre and Highbury Whanau Centre are also closed. However, the Alternative Education Programme will continue to run at the Highbury Whanau Centre.
“While our community centres are often the heart and soul of our suburbs and this closure will be very disappointing for many people, they are used by some of our most vulnerable residents, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our community safe,” says Ms Shotter.
Caccia Birch, The Stomach and Centrepoint Theatre are also now closed. Hancock House is closed to walk-ins but appointments will continue.
This follows decisions yesterday to close CET Arena and the Conference and Function Centre and CET Wildbase Recovery. Te Manawa is also closed, and will review that decision in two weeks.
We’re keeping a close eye on other facilities
We’re constantly reviewing all of our facilities as we receive updates from the Ministry of Health and Government. We’re following their advice and the Local Government Covid-19 Response Team Council Facilities Closure Framework.
The Lido, Freyberg Pool and Splashhurst remain open, but all programmes, except the after school programme, will now be stopped. Our operators, CLM, are cleaning hourly, and ensuring there isn't more than 100 people in the facilities at a time.
We’ll update our community as soon as possible if any other facilities or services are affected.
Council is prepared for Covid-19
20 March: Palmerston North City Council has this week fine-tuned its business continuity plans to ensure the city is ready for potential impacts as the Covid-19 situation unfolds. This includes putting process, protocols and resources in place to maintain the operation of essential city services.
Chief Executive, Heather Shotter says the Council’s contingency planning strikes a balance between public health considerations and the need to keep things operating as much as possible.
“We want to retain as much of a sense of normality for people as we can. Providing things like safe drinking water and wastewater services is especially important at this time, from a public health perspective.
“As well as day-to-day operational services, any urgent maintenance and repairs to our water pipes and roads will also be carried out, and rubbish and recycling services will continue as normal. If the situation changes, we would of course provide the public with advance warning of any service interruptions,” says Ms Shotter.
The Council’s water, wastewater, rubbish and recycling teams already have a range of health and safety equipment, and additional protective measures are being investigated and sourced. In the meantime, residents are asked to assist in minimising the risks these critical frontline workers face.
“Please don’t put tissues or wipes into your recycling bins, or toilets. They cannot be recycled, and tissues don’t break down properly in our water pipes, which could cause blockages. Tissues and wipes should be placed in a plastic bag, so they don’t fall out, and then put into a rubbish bin,” says Ms Shotter.
Central Energy Trust Arena and Wildbase Recovery to close, temporarily
CET Arena closes from today, in line with the government’s directions to cancel public gatherings of more than 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Our staff have been redeployed to other projects at the venue. The Conference and Function Centre remains open for now, but as most events have been cancelled it’s likely the centre will also close in the coming days.
Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery is also closing its doors today. More than 80 per cent of our volunteers have opted out of their roles due to the circumstances. The animals will continue to be looked after, and emergency surgeries will continue.
In line with sector practice Te Manawa is also closed to the public for two weeks from today. This will be reviewed in two weeks.
“We hope to be able to reopen facilities as soon as we are able to, and will provide updates to the community as soon as this is possible,” says Ms Shotter.
Parks, libraries and pools remain open
All of Palmerston North’s libraries remain open, with increased cleaning measures in place.
The Lido, Splashhurst and Freyberg Pools also all remain open.
Our pools have rigorous cleaning schedules, including cleaning changing rooms at least every three hours. Swimming lessons and classes are still on, but if you have concerns get in touch with the facilities as they are happy to suspend enrolments.
Any decision to limit classes or close the facility would be done in partnership with our operators CLM, based on advice from the Ministry of Health about public gatherings.
All of Palmerston North’s parks also remain open.
Major events cancelled, including Anzac Day commemorations and Military Tattoo
The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association (RNZRSA) yesterday cancelled public events commemorating Anzac Day 2020 due to the Covid-19 situation.
In light of this and government’s recent directives around mass gatherings, all of Palmerston North City Council’s Anzac Day commemorations are also be cancelled. These include events planned at Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe, CBD, Maori Battalion Hall, Linton Camp and any other parades and services within the Palmerston North City Council area.
Ms Shotter says the Military Tattoo scheduled for 4 April is also cancelled.
“We know these cancellations will be a huge disappointment for many, but the wellbeing of our community is our highest priority.
“This also includes taking care of our staff, and a key part of our response planning is ensuring our employees are safe and well. We’ve been sending regular updates to staff to share important information, and are trialling working from home with selected teams to test our technology and capabilities.
“We acknowledge our people who have stepped up during this uncertain time, to ensure we continue to be able to provide excellent service to our community,” says Ms Shotter.
Residents can follow Council updates on this page or on our Facebook page: @PNCity.
Council is operating within the crisis response framework and working with Local Government New Zealand and following Ministry of Health guidelines.
MidCentral DHB steps up Covid-19 support
18 March: MidCentral District Health Board is taking further steps to protect the community from Covid-19 by setting up testing and swabbing sites throughout the district.
There are five dedicated sites across the MidCentral District’s localities of Palmerston North, Horowhenua District, Ōtaki, Manawatū District and Tararua District to provide assessment and swabbing for suspected cases. There will also be a mobile testing unit available to support harder to reach groups.
Healthline will manage referrals to the testing sites, and advice on whether testing is required can be obtained by calling the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline number on 0800 358 5453 if you or your whānau are unwell. General Practice Teams will also able to refer patients to these sites, if required.
Tattoo cancelled following government’s Covid-19 events announcement
17 March: Palmerston North City Council with support from the New Zealand Defence Force has followed central government advice and cancelled the New Zealand Military Tattoo planned for Saturday 4 April.
This is consistent with other major events organized around the country after the Right Honourable Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced gatherings of 500 or more people should be cancelled to restrict the spread of Covid-19.
"We are disappointed we will not be able to share this incredible event, but the wellbeing of the community is our highest priority," says Palmerston North City Council Chief Executive Heather Shotter. "We all have to play our part in restricting the spread of this virus and this is the only prudent action to take."
Council is currently assessing other events that may be impacted, both as Council-owned events and events held within Council venues. Unless notified, all other Council facilities are operating as usual as this time.
Council prepared for Covid-19 developments
4 March: Palmerston North City Council is aware an Auckland woman who has tested positive for Covid-19 was on Air New Zealand flights to and from Palmerston North on Monday 2 March.
The flights were NZ5103 from Auckland to Palmerston North shortly after 8am, and Flight NZ8114 that left Palmerston North for Auckland at 2.30pm. The woman is in self-isolation at her Auckland home.
Council is working closely with the MidCentral DHB to monitor the situation. We are following public health advice as shared by the DHB and the Ministry of Health.
As a precaution, and following ministry advice, we remind the public not to attend public events if they are feeling unwell.
Keeping yourself and people around you healthy
31 January: We’re all hearing a lot in the media at the moment about Coronavirus so it’s important that we all stay informed and up-to-date on what we can do to ensure we and the people around us stay healthy.
The most up to date information will be found on the government's website:
If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or if you need any advice please telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 611 116.
Everybody should follow the basic principles of hygiene and cough etiquette to reduce the risk of getting an acute respiratory infection or passing it onto others. This includes:
- regularly washing hands (for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap and dry thoroughly)
- covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze
- staying home if you’re sick
- avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, and
- if you’re feeling unwell, avoiding public gatherings and events.
Council’s Emergency Management Team is working closely MidCentral DHB Public Health to monitor the situation around the city and region and provide accurate advice to residents.