Tauranga City libraries manager Joanna Thomas typically spends her days helping people navigate through its systems and ensuring there are always plenty of great books at hand.
These days, Thomas is operating from her kitchen table as part of the Western Bay of Plenty Civil Defence emergency operations centre.
Thomas is a welfare team member in the local emergency response to Covid-19's alert level 4 restrictions. Her new role helps ensure the region's most vulnerable are being looked after as best as possible during the lockdown. This has included finding shelter for homeless people, connecting needy families with the local foodbank and also helping check on elderly and isolated residents.
Like many other council staff, Thomas has already been trained to operate in an emergency response situation such as a tsunami or significant weather event "but never a pandemic", she said.
"Certainly not me anyway, so it's quite different."
Thomas is one of about 30 staff redeployed from her usual role at Tauranga City Council into the emergency response team. Between 20 and 30 staff from Western Bay of Plenty District Council have also been drafted. They each work 10-hour shifts, four days on and four days off as the response team manages the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Within the first two weeks of lockdown, accommodation had become a significant problem in Tauranga and the Western Bay, Thomas said.
"People who normally have been able to travel away and find accommodation are getting stuck here, such as freedom campers and international workers. And people who normally don't have accommodation in normal times become more vulnerable because of Covid-19; people who have been rough sleeping. So that's been very different for me, as a libraries manager."
Thomas said she missed the face-to-face interaction she typically experienced in the libraries but found this new role gratifying.
"People are asking you for support for whatever their issues are and I'm used to talking to people and offering help, so you've just got to adapt," she said.
"It's rewarding to see that you can help people who really are very vulnerable."
Thomas works in with other welfare team members throughout the Bay of Plenty, many of whom are fellow colleagues she already knows from her role with the libraries.
"It's incredibly humbling to see how public services and volunteer organisations and iwi are working together. That part of it has been very inspiring. You've got to have faith there is a lot going on to look after the most vulnerable. A lot going on in the background that people aren't aware of."
Tauranga City Council general manager of people and engagement Susan Jamieson said some emergency operations centre staff were experienced volunteers like Thomas who temporarily moved out of their usual roles to help support the community. Some have already moved back to business as usual while others were in the process of upskilling redeployed staff.
Some of the emergency response staff include volunteers from parking, bylaws, environmental, building, customer-facing areas and community services, Jamieson said.