Council leads recovery plan

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Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown will likely chair a local economic recovery advisory group that will include Mid Canterbury people representing eight different sectors including agriculture, retail and hospitality.

Ashburton District Councillors will meet today to talk about their response to Covid-19 and council economic development manager Bevan Rickerby has proposed a special advisory group to assist and support the district through the pandemic cycle.

Mr Rickerby said the district was in a lockdown response phase but would move next to a resilience stage.

“In an economic sense, businesses will be focused on rebuilding and maintaining cash flows and jobs.

“Council as an organisation is clearly involved in its own right, but there is also a role for support, facilitation and empathy with the business sector to ensure there is a smooth transition back to full employment.”

He said the phase after resilience would be the “return to capacity” phase as industry sectors rebuilt.

“The final phase, which is envisaged to be at least two to three years away, will be the new norm and what that is going to look like will take visionary thinking.”

Mr Rickerby said in the resilience phase, council needed to involve those in the community that had vision and understanding of their particular sectors.

He has suggested a Covid-19 economic recovery advisory group to be led by the mayor. It could also include council chief executive Hamish Riach, the economic development manager, iwi representation and reps from sectors involved in agriculture, infrastructure, construction, contracting, tourism, retail, hospitality and transport.

Infometrics and the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce could also be invited.

Mr Rickerby said given the impact of Covid-19 on many Mid Canterbury businesses, council’s role extended beyond the more traditional infrastructure and welfare response and included supporting a wider economic, social, cultural and environmental recovery, working with key sectors and agencies.

It would be the biggest challenge Mid Canterbury would face “in our lifetimes,” he said.

Councillors will vote on establishing the advisory group today.

Council has been told by a senior economist that the Ashburton District will be in a better position than most other regions post-Covid-19.