Taupō councillors have thanked Taupō District Council staff who had to put in long hours over lockdown to keep the district functioning as well as responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Council chief executive Gareth Green told Tuesday's council meeting that during the lockdown the council continued to maintain critical infrastructure and services. A large number of staff worked through lockdown in various areas as well as in the joint councils' emergency operations centre, which had about 50 staff in it at its peak.
"There was an additional focus for council staff that we didn't normally have, like welfare issues," Green said.
Covid-19 brought other demands too. The council's response to the Government's call for "shovel-ready" projects took up a lot of time over a short period, he said. The council submitted a list of 16 projects worth $316 million and is waiting to hear which ones will be given the green light.
Green said the shovel-ready bid was "essentially a long-term plan that was written over Easter weekend, which would normally take about 18 months and took five days".
"The Annual Plan was almost ready [before lockdown] and had to be re-written and had to be restructured with the commitment to 0 per cent rates, normally a 10-month process, which we've almost completed essentially in a six-week period.
"On top of that the team have been catching up with all of the work that couldn't be done through lockdown such as mowing. The team have done a bloody good job catching up and are almost there and have been working very hard to bring the district back to the levels we all expect."
Green said he was "very proud" of how the staff had responded.
"Through times of crisis like that when there's a real clear why, why you're having to do things, that you see the team pull together and work incredibly hard at all hours of the day and night and weekends and public holidays to get the right outcome. It worked well and hopefully we can have a holiday soon because the majority of the staff are absolutely stuffed. We are exhausted through the ranks, to be honest."
Cr Kevin Taylor said he wanted to formally thank the council senior leadership and all of the staff for "the efforts they put in for quite an extended period of time". It was quickly seconded by other councillors and passed.
Taylor added the motion "doesn't come with a pay rise or anything", to which Green replied "it comes with a pay reduction, actually". Green has taken a 10 per cent reduction on his $331,000 salary during the 2020/2021 financial year, which begins on July 1.
Green's report to the council was echoed by other council senior managers who also updated their department's activities over the past two months.
Operations manager Kevin Strongman said the work his staff had been doing to maintain critical infrastructure had been unprecedented, time-consuming and intense.
Finance manager Alan Menhennet, whose team had had to rework the council financials as income plummeted and costs rose, reported that the forecast financial position for the year end showed the council would "end up pretty much in line with what the budget is".
There had been some challenges, such as the amount of annual leave that had built up because staff were unable to take scheduled holidays under the heavy workload. That not only affected the financials, but also wellbeing and he hoped the July school holidays would provide an opportunity for some to get a break.
"There's quite a mental price that's been paid by the staff," he said.