An emergency full Wellington City Council meeting is being held tomorrow to consider a report on how to run meetings when elected members are in self-isolation.
The council's executive leadership team and other senior staff have spent the weekend in planning meetings, and work has been undertaken on defining critical council services and the possible redeployment of staff.
By law, elected members must be physically present in a meeting when a council or committee decision is made.
This is to make a quorum, which is the minimum number of members of an assembly that must be present.
Earlier this week Local Government New Zealand confirmed it's working with the Department of Internal Affairs to relax these rules, so councillors tuning in via audio or visual link would count for a quorum.
But Wellington City Council officers have been advised any law change would likely take weeks to progress and it's unclear what other legislative changes will be proposed.
In their urgent report for councillors to consider tomorrow, officers recommended alternative decision making processes were implemented in the meantime.
"The challenge for the Council is that swift action is required to put plans in place in order to ensure that Council can make decisions as necessary. Some urgent decisions may relate directly to the response to Covid-19, while others may be necessary for the continued operation of Council services", officers said.
The situation is not unique to Wellington, with councils across the country grappling with the same problem.
Wellington City Council officers have recommended that committee quorums are reduced to two. Any elected member would still be entitled to vote via audio or visual link.
By law, the quorum for full council meetings cannot be reduced.
To get around that, council officers have recommended all powers special to full Council meetings be delegated to the Strategy and Policy Committee, which could make decisions with a quorum of two.
Officers have also recommended a contingency delegation of four elected members is created, to allow for urgent decision making when it's not practical for the reduced committee quorum to be physically present.
"While officers consider this a low probability, it is recommended that a delegation be granted to certain elected members to ensure that Council or committee decisions can continue in all circumstances," the report said.
Enacting a delegation like this would mean decision making power is vested with a small group of elected members, but only as a contingency and only during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There would also be strict rules for the delegation to take effect.
The chief executive and two delegates would need to agree that an urgent decision was needed to ensure the key functions of council continued, and that it was not possible to proceed with a meeting or a quorum of members.
Any decisions made under the delegation would be circulated to all councillors and be reported back to a full council meeting at the earliest possible time.
"This is to ensure public transparency around decision-making using this mechanism", officers said.
The Wellington City Council Meeting will be held at 3pm tomorrow.