News | 22 April 2020
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Mayoral update for 22 April

Kia ora Wellington. Today we had just six new Covid cases reported across our whole country.

That’s another indication we’re on the right track and we are largely avoiding the terrible loss of life that so many countries are enduring.

That’s due to 5 million of us doing the right thing. Everyone can be very proud of doing this – together. It also supports the decision to move to Alert Level 3 next week.

Much will stay the same when we leave Alert Level 4 on Monday at 11.59pm. But one of the big changes will be that the construction industry will be able to get back to work – working under a special Construction Accord to ensure Covid safety.

That’s hugely exciting for Wellington.

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Crews can get stuck back into a number of key construction projects for the city – especially our Conference and Exhibition Centre, the St James Theatre, and our Town Hall. These are projects that will transform the Capital, revitalise some of our urban spaces, and stimulate a multitude of businesses in those areas.

When we went into lockdown, work had been in full flow on the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Construction crews had laid all of the 220 piles, as well as completing around 60 percent of the base concrete layer. With those crews back on site from next week, it won’t be long before we see the structure emerging above ground. 

It’s important to remember that the cost of the Convention and Exhibition Centre is 67 percent funded by the commercial sector. It will support some 864 construction jobs and 372 jobs when operational. We’ve already spent about $60 million on land, design, foundations and materials like base isolators and structural steel.

Across town, key strengthening work on the Town Hall will continue once contractors can return to site, as will work to strengthen and refurbish the St James Theatre. Prior to lockdown, work on both projects had been progressing well, with base isolators on site at the Town Hall, and the installation of new foundations well underway at the St James.

From Tuesday we’ll start seeing work return to these three key projects. This puts all Wellingtonians a step closer to having world class venues for events, exhibitions and conferences on their doorstep.

And more good news. Today, Metlink announced plans to return to full regular timetables – for buses that will start on Sunday 26 April, and for trains it will be Monday 4 May. It’s another sign that things are starting to return to ‘normal’ – or at least a new normal – for our city.

Public transport as an essential service will be expanded under Alert Level 3 as businesses, early learning centres and schools start to reopen. Transport will be free until June, but Metlink is urging all bus passengers making essential travel to use Snapper cards. This helps Greater Wellington with transport planning, and will really help just in case somebody is diagnosed with Covid.

If you don’t have a Snapper Card you can order one free by calling 0800 555 345 between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The cards will then be delivered to your home address. And don’t worry, if you don’t have a card, you will still be able to board the bus and travel until your card is delivered. Entry will still be by the back door for buses and seats will be marked out to ensure physical distancing.

Finally, I have asked for a formal debrief on the issues relating to last week’s emergency when huge waves from Cook Strait caused havoc in Owhiro Bay.

Earlier this week I took part in a videoconference organised by local residents as a response to those events. Among the participants were local residents, ward Councillors, GWRC Chair Daran Ponter, and representatives from Police, NIWA and the City Council.

Issues covered included how information about potentially dangerous sea conditions is provided to the public; the emergency response itself; and the future resilience of the seaside properties in Owhiro Bay and other coastal communities in the region.

Senior council staff have already started discussions with NIWA and MetService to see what they can offer in terms of future early warnings - which is really positive. We’re discussing this with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office. I’ve also been in touch with the Insurance Council.

Wellington, it’s been a long journey since we entered lockdown on March 25, but we’re another day closer to those restrictions easing. Keep up the good work, and I’ll be back with another update soon.

Kia kaha.