A word from Sanchia Jacobs, Central Otago Council chief executive


Managing risk the key in this difficult time

When I applied for the role of CEO at the CODC I knew there would be many difficult decisions to make.

I played out various scenarios and thought about what good leadership would look like in approaching them.

Never did I consider leading the council through a global pandemic – it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility.

During the first lockdown I had to consider things like potential mass graves and available chiller space for dead bodies, establishing temporary hospitals and how we would deliver welfare services to people who needed food, shelter and other services.

We managed to shift the entire council operations to remote working – keeping our people safe, playing our part in responding to the pandemic and still delivering services.

That seems like a long time ago now.

We are now operating within the Orange setting of the Covid-19 traffic light settings.

This time a different set of decisions need to be made, including difficult decisions necessary to protect our community and provide a safe workplace for staff by excluding parts of our community from some of our facilities.

Yet, that is what has been determined.

The traffic light system sets a minimum standard of service, and then each organisation is required to undertake its own risk assessment to determine if it will take any measures beyond the minimum standard.

It quickly becomes apparent that the risk factors across some parts of council business are greater than at others.

Council staff have varying degrees of interaction with members of the public.

Those interactions are particularly high in our most public-facing roles like pools, iSites and libraries.

In addition to the staff interaction with the public, the public who visit those facilities are also in close proximity to each other.

As I considered my obligations under both the Health Order and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 it became clear that the risk profile for the CODC was higher in some respects of our service delivery than the minimum standards outlined in the traffic light system.

There is also the increased risk of impending school holidays and higher amounts of domestic travel approaching.

That is why the decision has been made to require vaccine passes at all council pools, iSites and libraries from tomorrow.

I recognise that this means some parts of our community are excluded.

Sadly, it also means that some children are excluded if they can only come to our facilities with a caregiver who has made a personal decision not to get vaccinated.

We are looking at how we can continue to provide as many services as possible through contactless methods.

This is particularly difficult to mitigate at our pools, but we have several ideas for iSites and libraries that we will communicate as they become available.

We look forward to sharing those with you.