As we move into week six of staying in our bubbles, the social and economic impacts of the virus are still unfolding.

There are many challenges we are all facing right now and more than likely these challenges will only grow as we look to try and recover from these unprecedented times.

To those who have already felt the impact of this pandemic, both socially and economically, it must be extremely difficult to imagine that things will recover at all. It is likely though, that the challenges ahead of us with business closures, loss of employment and reduced income will only increase.

We need short, medium and long term plans to meet those challenges.

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Central government will guide much of where this recovery happens and, like all councils in NZ, we too have submitted a number of "shovel ready" projects that could assist with vital investment in our future. We are also working with our neighbours to ensure regionally we have an economic recovery plan.

Locally, council are taking a prudent and measured approach to this recovery. It is important that we stay agile and flexible and fully understand what is happening in all sectors of our community. That we understand where the real pressures are before we make decisions that will be have long lasting impacts for the generations ahead.

Council has already signalled a number of short term strategies and plans that will ease the immediate burden, including no increase in fees and charges, giving rent relief to community groups and businesses and reconfiguring and bringing forward the community grants funding to ease viability for organisations. There are also a number of medium and long term responses that we will consider.

The Annual Plan for 2020/21 is currently being consulted on and it is extremely encouraging that the number of submissions we have received to date has exceeded last year's number. The Annual Plan that we adopt in late June may look very different from what the draft plan looked like when we went out for consultation just before lockdown.

Much has changed since then and we are very conscious of the need to look at all capital expenditure and the proposed level of rates increase.

There is a dilemma though for councils throughout the country, in that we know we need to cut unnecessary expenditure and try and ease the burden on ratepayers but we also need to maintain and renew our essential services like water, waste and roads. We are also very aware of the role that council can play in investing in projects that stimulate the economy and provide jobs.

One thing we all can do together though, is support local and be proud that we live in the Horowhenua. It will continue to be a great place to live, despite all the challenges we face.

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