Covid-19 has been a challenge in many different ways and this includes a challenge to council.

Like most businesses, a big part of the challenge was trying to figure out how to operate within the new restrictions.

Things like making our bus service work when physical distancing limits the number of passengers, and how to hold formal council meetings remotely when the legislation and rules were not set up to allow this.

Some jobs just couldn't be done because it was impossible for the team to be out there killing possums and planting trees.

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This meant many staff couldn't work from home even if they wanted to.

Some of these staff worked in our emergency operations centre (EOC) instead to help coordinate the regional response.

In most emergency events such as a flood, the EOC is open for only a few days or weeks yet in this case it remained active for more than 80 days.

As well as the logistics of keeping the EOC staffed for so long, this emergency response required creativity because most emergencies involve evacuating people from their homes whereas this one focused on keeping people supported while staying in their homes.

All of these challenges were worked through and there were some great outcomes.

We worked well with our communities and councils across the region.

It quickly became apparent that the well-connected iwi networks were incredibly strong about responding to their community needs.

And of course coming out the other side into recovery mode, there are a large range of opportunities that Horizons has seized.

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Key among this is the Jobs for Nature contestable funds put up by central government to help stimulate the post-Covid recovery.

Horizons was successful in securing $18.5 million of central government funding for three projects.

One project will enable more than 400km of waterways to be fenced and planted for a second project that will improve access for native fish to waterways.

Numerous barriers such as culverts and weirs have been installed in our waterways and many of these prevent our endangered native fish species from reaching spawning grounds where they breed.

The final project is to create a wetland complex adjacent to Lake Horowhenua as part of a number of actions to help address the lake's poor water quality.

In my view, this significant package of works is a win-win situation – we take much-needed action in improving our water quality while ensuring more people are provided with employment.

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Rachel Keedwell
Horizons Regional Council