Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall has urged the community to follow the New Zealand government's rules and implement the Covid-19 level 4 risk response announced on Monday.

"I think it's the right move, at the right time," McDouall said.

"We need to minimise the impact of Covid-19, and it's an extraordinarily brave move to go to a level 4 threat so swiftly.

"This a historic event, and we shouldn't underestimate it."

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McDouall said that while the level 4 announcement would have a significant impact on both the "commercial and social aspects" of Whanganui, the community as a whole needed to "do the right thing".

"We have to be calm, be safe, and be in touch with the most vulnerable members of our community."

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The mayor said the way the people of Whanganui dealt with historic flooding in 2015 was "inspiring", and he hoped that same spirit would be used in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Whanganui has done this before. I saw the community spirit with my own eyes, when we pulled together after the floods of 2015, so we know how to do this.

"We need a different approach this time, and we'll get through this by doing the right thing and following the rules.

"This isn't the new normal, we can get back to the community we all know and love."

The Whanganui District Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, has been cancelled and the council has closed or is reviewing other services.

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From Monday, March 23, Whanganui Airport is closed to the public, with only passengers allowed in the terminal.

Other facilities that have already been closed include the Sarjeant Gallery, libraries, War Memorial Centre, Innovation Quarter, i-Site visitor information centre, Durie Hill elevator and the St Hill St infrastructure building.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Rangitikei District mayor Andy Watson said he and his council supported Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern's action in moving to level 3 and then 4 on Wednesday.

"It was expected. We know the educator sector and a number of other sectors have spoken to her and reinforced the need but we're now in the situation of dealing with it and to be honest some of council's preparation was already at stage 3."

Watson said they sympathised and understood what businesses were facing with having to close their doors" but the underlying principle here is the more that we can flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of this pandemic, the better. It allows us to recuperate faster".

Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson (left) and Rangitikei District Council chief executive Peter Beggs are working through how to provide essential services. Photo / Bevan Conley
Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson (left) and Rangitikei District Council chief executive Peter Beggs are working through how to provide essential services. Photo / Bevan Conley

Rangitikei District Council chief executive Peter Beggs said a meeting was to be held on Monday afternoon to discuss essential services.

He said the council's "front-facing" services would be withheld; however, essential public transport services organised through information centres around the district were to be discussed.

"We are focusing on ensuring our critical and essential services are continuing around water and wastewater and so we are focusing on that as a priority area. Also included in that is IT and burial services if needed. Those are areas we are looking at ways to ensure our staff are kept at a level at which they are able to work."

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall is urging the community to
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall is urging the community to "do the right thing" and follow the Covid-19 rules. Photo / Bevan Conley

Whanganui Chamber of Commerce said with the situation moving so rapidly it was currently unable to comment on the impact on local businesses but there would be discussions with the chamber network and partners in the coming days.