Auckland's libraries, pools and recreational centres, as well as the Maritime Museum, Art Gallery and War Memorial Museum will close for two weeks from 20 March in line with Government recommendations to constrain the spread of COVID-19.
Making the announcement today, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the decision was made with regret but it was both important and necessary.
“Our main concern right now is to protect people’s health and wellbeing and we are doing this by limiting large crowd interactions where the chance of virus spread is high,” he said.
“Our 55 libraries across Auckland receive over 250,000 visits a week, while there are 200,000 visits a week to our swimming pools and leisure centres.
“The services we are closing are highly used and much loved by our communities but these are not services which have to be maintained to provide the necessities of life.
“I want people to know that this wasn’t an easy decision. However, we get far too many people through the door at these facilities to be able to run them safely in light of the current situation.
“The closure will be for a period of two weeks initially, extended as required depending on the evolving situation with COVID-19 and the advice of Government. The facilities will be closed to the public from later today.
“Our actions follow the recommendations from the Government around the need to keep public gatherings, wherever possible, below 100 people indoors.
“Maintaining social distancing in a library situation is difficult and I am conscious that many library users are older people more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.
“Over the coming fortnight, we will consider what other creative options may be available to enable some services to be reinstated,” Phil Goff said.
“This is a great opportunity for people to sign up for our e-lending services like audiobooks, video streaming services and learning databases like Lynda.com
“There will be no fines on overdue library items while the closures are in place.
Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee Chair Councillor Alf Filipaina said, “We need to ensure that we limit the spread of COVID-19 as far as possible.
“This will help ensure our people and our communities stay safe. It is about the community.”
Councillor Cathy Casey says, “To close our much loved and well used facilities is a major step for Auckland Council. Our priority must be to follow Ministry of Health guidance and keep Aucklanders safe.”
Other bodies funded by council that run independently under their own legislation like the Museum and MOTAT will make announcements around how they will comply with new requirements.
“We will work with staff affected by these changes over the coming days to look at opportunities for redeployment across our network of services.
“These decisions will not affect the employment of permanent staff, full or part time. Where staff time is freed up, we will look at how they may be able to assist in other areas such as support for District Health Boards, where pressures may grow if the impact of COVID-19 worsens,” Phil Goff said.
The council is also reviewing its wider network of community facilities, including community centres, community art galleries and venues for hire, to ensure that from Monday 23 March these facilities only support classes, activities, programmes and events that allow for social distancing within government guidelines.
The council will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and regularly review its position.
For the latest information regarding cancellations and closures, visit ourauckland.nz/covid19
For the most up-to-date government response information please go to covid19.govt.nz