Ōpōtiki District Council has closed the doors of the Ōpōtiki i-SITE and public library in a move to protect staff and the wider community from the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Council Chief Executive, Aileen Lawrie, said that the decision wasn’t taken lightly but was a combination of factors, some unique to Ōpōtiki. She said that at the end of the day, reducing the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus and protecting vulnerable members of the community had to come first.

“For the Ōpōtiki i-SITE in particular, most customers are from overseas and we couldn’t take the risk for our staff and other customers that visitors were adhering to the government’s requirement for them to self-isolate for 14 days. We added to this the consideration that it is the end of our peak summer season so numbers have dropped right away. Staff have just completed a very heavy events season as well so we have brought forward some downtime we are likely to have planned anyway.

“In the case of our library, our staff and resources are already packed in very tight in our temporary location while we wait for the build of Te Tahuhu o Te Rangi. Our library is very popular and busy, particularly with many community members who fall into the highest risk categories and would suffer the worst effects of the virus. Social distancing would be impractical to implement in either location,” Ms Lawrie said.

Ms Lawrie also noted that many services could still be provided, but with lower health and safety risks as they were not through face-to-face interaction. 

“Both the i-SITE and the library are well connected and our staff will be there to assist via phone or email during business hours. I am sure that ebooks and audiobooks will grow in popularity and we’ve waived any fines and extended loan times,” Ms Lawrie said.

The current pandemic is also impacting other council activities with a number of cancellations of public events in the coming weeks. Council advises the community to check in with ticket providers to find out which events had been cancelled or postponed.

“Our contingency planning means that we are well-prepared to ensure that essential services continue operating should the community and council staff be more widely affected. But it means that in line with central government advice, we have cancelled several of our own community events such as the two Brendan Dooley shows and author talk and book signing event “Coffee Matt Calman” this weekend. I am aware many other events run by other organisations have been cancelled or postponed as well.

“The most important thing at this stage is for the community to continue to follow the advice of our health professionals – washing hands, staying home if unwell and social distancing. We are committed to keeping staff and the community safe and we’ll continue to keep a close eye on the situation and adjust our approach as needed,” Ms Lawrie said.