Kawerau has had a quiet month in lockdown, with no cases of Covid-19 reported in the Bay of Plenty town.

"It's been great really," said Malcolm Campbell, Mayor of Kawerau. "Everybody's been really respectful of the rules and basically everybody is looking after each other, I think. We're all within the 'Kawerau bubble'."

"There was only one case [of Covid-19] in the Eastern Bay, that was a gentleman who went into isolation in Ōpōtiki and did a very good job of it.

"It is an issue we're concerned about, because people will tend to - when they get the go-for-it - will be off to see their relations and whānau up in Auckland. That's when we don't want to see it transferred to the Eastern Bay."


Kawerau is joining forces with other Eastern Bay of Plenty towns, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki, offering each other support in rebuilding their economies.

"We are already doing a whole lot of collaborative work together," said Judy Turner, Mayor of Whakatāne.

"Kawerau's got some industrial symbiosis projects, Ōpōtiki's got that aquaculture and horticultural things coming along, we know that when one of us is doing well there's a spinoff for the rest of us as well.

"We don't see ourselves in competition at all. We see ourselves as holding hands and doing this together."

Whakatāne was already in the throes of recovery after December's White Island eruption when the outbreak hit.

"My poor councillors who the public elected! We've only just gotten back into some business sense of meeting. But it has been a challenge, there's no other way to explain it," Turner said.

"We've had a double-whammy hit, so recovery feels a little bit more onerous than if we were just dealing with the one thing."

In Kawerau the priority is business.


"Our forestry people, we want to get them back to work asap," said Campbell. "Kajavala logging and our trains back into the port as soon as possible. That will take a big pressure off. But to be honest, I think getting back up and going, it's going to take three weeks for us to get retail up and cranking, I think that's where we might see some people suffering, to be honest."

Another contentious economic topic is rates. Kawerau has announced a zero-rates rise for the rest of this year.

"There are people who will physically not be able to pay," Campbell said.

"That's where we've got to have some compassion and some empathy for those people. There will be no penalties on rates this year - for 12 months at least.

"What we're saying to anybody who can't pay rates at this time is please contact council immediately, we can come to an arrangement of how we can spread that over the next twelve months. More than happy to do that."

Whakatāne won't guarantee a rates freeze, but is looking to ease the economic burden in other ways.

"We're looking at how we can provide relief for organisations, for instance, that use some of our facilities but haven't been able to use them lately," Turner said.

"We obviously have to return some spend to them, look at the facilities we offer that currently have been unavailable, yet people have been rated for them. Those are the kinds of things where we're saying 'how can we adjust our balance sheet, to reflect what people are seeing and feeling?'"

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