At its first Horizons Regional Council virtual meeting since the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Council resolved the revision of their proposed 2020-21 Annual Plan, while recognising the potential financial impact of Covid-19.

Council were set to adopt their 2020-21 Annual Plan for community consultation on 24 March 2020. Due to the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 response, the meeting was cancelled and the Annual Plan process suspended.

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says to meet the legislative requirement to adopt an Annual Plan by 30 June, Council recommended Horizons' chief executive Michael McCartney revises the proposed 2020-21 Annual Plan to reflect the potential post-pandemic social and economic impact to the Manawatū-Whanganui Region.

"Council understands that there is a desire from the region's residents for a zero rates increase, however the environmental issues that need addressing will remain well after the Covid-19 Alert levels are lifted.

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"These include climate change, biodiversity, and freshwater issues that require our current work programmes to continue, as well as making sure we have a budget available to progress this work in a year's time.

"The rework of the Annual Plan will take another few weeks while we figure out what's needed versus what our communities can afford.

"Due to time constraints and concerns for public safety means our consultation will not be as extensive as originally planned. However, there will still be opportunities for feedback from our communities.

"It is important to note that our councillors and the organisation are always open to conversations about our work programmes, irrespective of whether it is what's proposed in our Annual Plan or on any other matter at any other time."

In conjunction with the Annual Plan, Council will investigate ways on how to lessen the financial burden Covid-19 may have on the region's ratepayers. This includes requesting central government to increase the threshold for its nationwide rates rebates scheme to align with the consumer price index and in consideration of future hardship as a result of Covid-19.

Cr Keedwell says Council also moved to request the Remuneration Authority holds remuneration payments for elected members at the current level and therefore not increase governance salaries in 2020-21.