A meeting of elected members at Western Bay of Plenty District Council will go ahead today despite an escalation in New Zealand's coronavirus alert level and warning for people aged over 70 to stay home.

The council has five councillors aged over 70 and a Policy Committee meeting is going ahead today.
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On Saturday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told New Zealand that anyone aged 70 or older should go into self-isolation during an alert level 2 . Yesterday, that escalated to an alert level 3 which meant limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, with it being raised to level 4 tomorrow.

Despite today's meeting, Western Bay councillor Kevin Marsh was taking no risks.
"I'm already on leave," he told the Bay of Plenty Times. "I'm not going back."

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Marsh, who is over 70, said he was already susceptible to pneumonia.

"I can't afford to get pneumonia, or anything like that, because I get it real bad. If I got this thing, I'll just [won't survive]. So I rang the mayor and said I wasn't coming back until it was all sorted out.

"It's just not worth it. Why would you go and spread it if we can do it from home?"

Marsh said he was happy to Skype in for meetings, if needed.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Maketu-Te Puke ward member Kevin Marsh is taking no chances. Photo / File
Western Bay of Plenty District Council Maketu-Te Puke ward member Kevin Marsh is taking no chances. Photo / File

Fellow councillor Margaret Murray-Benge, who was also aged over 70, said she was staying at home for the most part.

"We are supposed to have a meeting ]today] and there are three of us that have a hearing. I suppose it's possible that hearing could go ahead if we space ourselves out accordingly."

Murray-Benge said she was waiting to see what instructions would come and ensuring she stayed home until she knew more.

Councillor Christina Humphreys was already in self-isolation. Humphreys is part of the 70 or older age bracket and had noticed she had a sort throat and did not want to take any risk.

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Councillor Mark Dean, also aged over 70, said he had already applied for leave as he had planned to attend a cycling race with extended family in the South Island. The trip was cancelled.

Mayor Garry Webber was busy with council chief executive Miriam Taris working through the council's response to Covid-19 and unable to comment before deadline. Webber has previously referred to his 70-plus age as a reason why he won't seek re-election in 2022 but whether he will attend today's meeting was not clear.

Western Bay councillor Mark Dean won't be returning to work anytime soon. Photo / File
Western Bay councillor Mark Dean won't be returning to work anytime soon. Photo / File

Meanwhile, Bay of Plenty Regional Council has two elected members aged over 70.

Tauranga constituency Councillor David Love, who is also deputy chairman of the regional Civil Defence emergency management group, said he would still be attending emergency meetings in person as current legislation required it, rather than over video link.

"As a community leader, I have to stand and lead."

Local Government New Zealand is looking to extend the quorum to those attending via video or audio link as well as in person.

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He also anticipated going to the supermarket. While there was a responsibility to protect Tauranga's older population, not everything could stop entirely, he said.

Western Bay constituency councillor Norm Brunning, 73, said he had plenty of provisions for self-isolation, having been expecting several guests who had since cancelled.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council building on Barkes corner. Photo / File
Western Bay of Plenty District Council building on Barkes corner. Photo / File

"I'm a confident sort of person. I think we will get through this… If we all co-operate we will get through it sooner.

There are no elected members aged 70 or over at Tauranga City Council.

- Additional reporting Samantha Motion