Update on South Canterbury services during COVID-19

Unite for the COVID-19 recovery

As of 22 September 2020, most of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1 (with the exception of Auckland, which remains at Alert Level 2). This means a return to "business as usual" for all Environment Canterbury services, buildings and staff.

For public transport information and queries, go to metroinfo.co.nz.

Please continue to go to the government's dedicated website covid19.govt.nz for COVID-related updates and advice, or the Ministry of Health website for detailed health information. 

Previous Level 2 updates

Update 2

From Tuesday 2 June our Timaru office will return to normal opening hours of 8.30am - 5.00pm under Level 2 restrictions.

Several restrictions will remain in place, including physical distancing and all visitors required to sign in and out. Please note that many of our staff are still working remotely, so we prefer – where possible – that you contact us on 0800 324 636 (8am-5pm) or via our contact us page

Timaru and South Canterbury services

Here's a current update on some services and rules relevant to Timaru and South Canterbury.

Public transport

The Timaru Link and Temuka service are back to regular timetables, and MyWay by Metro is operating at full capacity. The Timaru Link and school services may be full at peak times due to capacity restrictions under Alert Level 2, and people are requested to consider alternatives at peak times if possible. 

For more details go to the Metro website or read this update on Timaru public transport.

Home heating (woodburners)

  • While we know that smoke from woodburners contributes to urban air pollution, it is essential for people to stay warm in their homes, especially as we enter the cooler months.  Burning good quality dry wood is key to reducing smoke.
  • You can report a smoky chimney via Snap Send Solve, phone or email and our team will be able to investigate.  We will also be following up on reports made under Levels 3 and 4.
  • If you have questions regarding upgrading a woodburner please get in touch on 0800 324 636. Financial assistance options are available.

Rules, regulations and plan changes

  • Under Level 2 many of our normal processes relating to compliance monitoring and enforcement continue, but with some changes to the way we work with you. Read the latest update on compliance monitoring and enforcement to learn more. If you are in any doubt or have any questions at all, please contact your compliance monitoring officer direct or our customer services team on 0800 324 636 or via our contact us form.
  • Hearings for Plan Change 7 were due to be held from 18 May, but the Independent Hearings Panel has advised this will no longer take place.  The panel will advise a revised timeline; we will keep relevant parties informed as the timeline becomes known.

Reporting an environmental incident

  • If you'd like to report a pollution event – for waterways, air emissions or odour – use Snap Send Solve or contact 0800 765 588.

Flood protection and water monitoring

  • All of our flood prediction tools, rain gauges and river flow gauges are continuing to operate and the latest flow and rainfall information is available on our website. 
  • If you live or farm near a river or waterway, remember to keep an eye on the forecasts as Mother Nature won't be pressing pause on weather events.  
  • Water monitoring and hydrology work is continuing within government guidelines.

Outdoor burning: Clean air zone restrictions in place

Under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, no outdoor burning is permitted on properties within a clean air zone between 1 May and 31 August. We understand that due to the COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions, you may have a significant amount of green waste. If your property is located in a clean air zone, some alternatives to burning include:

  • taking your rubbish to the nearest transfer station for recycling
  • mulching/composting; or
  • waiting until after winter.

See our outdoor burning page for more information.

Please remember that even if your burning is allowed under our rules, Fire and Emergency New Zealand has its own seasonal restrictions and permitting requirements. Visit checkitsalright.nz for details.

Water Zone Committees

We have three community-led water zone committees in South Canterbury – Upper Waitaki, Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury and Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora.  All in-person meetings, workshops and field trips for water zone committees have been postponed but likely to be rescheduled soon.  Agendas and meeting dates will be posted on our website once confirmed.

Rural recycling

AgRecovery's on-farm collection recycling services restarted at Alert Level 3, with contactless pick-ups. Fixed sites cannot yet accept agrichemical containers but keep triple-rinsing containers and store them in a safe and dry place, as services will resume at Alert Level 2.

Keep an eye on AgRecovery's website to stay up with the latest, as they adapt their practices to keep rural recycling healthy and safe.

Tekapo Regional Park

All regional parks, including Tekapo, are open under Level 2.  Tekapo Regional Park, on the eastern shores of the lake, can be accessed by car from Lilybank Road.  The toilet blocks at the park are now closed for winter.

More information

Find more detailed information about our response to COVID-19.

Update 1

South Canterbury Manager, Justin McLauchlan, says that the Church Street office is open 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday for pre-arranged appointments only, to allow the team to deliver its services in a way that is safe for us all during the COVID-19 Level 2 restrictions.

"We're pleased to now be able to open our doors for those that have called ahead and made an appointment.  This system will allow us to ensure physical distancing, keep records of who is visiting and ensure we have the right people on hand to help answer your questions," he said.

"It's also worth noting that most of our staff will still be working remotely, so it's preferable – if possible – for you to contact us on 0800 324 636. rather than visit our office.

"Take care of yourselves and your families and follow www.covid19.govt.nz for the latest information and advice from the government."

Previous Level 3 updates

Environment Canterbury’s local team is delivering its services in a way that’s safe for us all during the COVID-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions. 

South Canterbury Manager, Justin McLauchlan, says the Regional Council team is strictly adhering to government pandemic rules but still working to deliver its essential services, including flood protection and public transport for essential trips.

"Our Timaru office on Church Street has been closed to the public since the alert level four COVID-19 restrictions were introduced and, as you may have guessed, all meetings, workshops and hearings have been postponed until further notice.

"However, our commitment to looking after the South Canterbury environment remains. Our team members are available to give advice and support over the phone or via email, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

“Take care of yourselves and your families and follow www.covid19.govt.nz for the latest information and advice from the government. Be kind South Canterbury and stay at home.”

To get in touch with us, contact 0800 324 636 (Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm), email info@ecan.govt.nz or visit our contact us page.

McLauchlan adds: “The team will respond to your call or email as quickly as possible, but there may be a delay to normal response times – so we are grateful for your patience.”

Timaru and South Canterbury services

The situation may change but here’s a current update on some services and rules relevant to Timaru and South Canterbury.

Public transport:

Rules and regulations:  

  • Our regional plans for farming activity (the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan), pest management, and air quality remain in place and relevant teams are operating remotely.
  • Hearings for Plan Change 7 were due to be held from 18 May, but the Independent Hearings Panel has advised this will no longer take place.
  • The panel will advise a revised timeline; we will keep relevant parties informed as the timeline becomes known.

Reporting an environmental incident:

  • If you’d like to report a pollution event – for waterways, air emissions or odour – use Snap Send Solve or contact 0800 765 588. 

Home heating (woodburners):

  • While we know that smoke from woodburners contributes to urban air pollution, it is essential for people to stay warm in their homes, especially as we enter the cooler months.
  • Wood merchants are able to deliver during the lockdown period, as this is considered an essential service. It’s really important to use quality dry wood and have a good burning technique, like using lots of kindling to get your fire started.
  • You can still report a smoky chimney via Snap Send Solve, phone or email but we will not be able to take action until the COVID-19 alert level is reduced.
  • The information from complaints will be gathered and used to inform future action.
  • For those going through the process of upgrading a woodburner, these are unprecedented times and the most important thing is for you to stay warm and stay at home.
  • We will be encouraging the upgrade of these burners following this period of uncertainty.  

Flood protection and water monitoring:

  • All of our flood prediction tools, rain gauges and river flow gauges will continue to operate as an essential service and the latest flow and rainfall information is available on our website
  • We have scaled back non-essential flood protection and drainage work in our riverbeds but will be completing works that protect life, homes and critical infrastructure.  
  • If you live or farm near a river or waterway, remember to keep an eye on the forecasts as Mother Nature won’t be pressing pause on weather events.  

Outdoor burning: 

Water Zone Committees:

  • We have three community-led water zone committees in South Canterbury – Upper Waitaki, Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury and Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora. All upcoming meetings, workshops and field trips for water zone committees have been postponed until further notice.

Rural Recycling (AgRecovery):

Tekapo Regional Park: 

  • The strong message from our Prime Minister is to stay at home. For those lucky few that live near Tekapo Regional Park, please note that all toilet facilities and camping areas are still closed, and we'll update this page as the situation changes.

Recreational boating: 

  • Maritime New Zealand has issued strong guidance to skippers of recreational vessels under Alert Level 3: "Anyone undertaking recreational activities on the water is urged to play their part in the fight against COVID-19. If you go out on the water and get yourself into trouble, you not only put your own life at risk, but also the lives of rescuers and emergency responders. [...] Now is not the time to take up new activities or expose yourself or others to any risk." Read the full statement from Maritime New Zealand.

More information

Find more detailed information about Environment Canterbury’s response to COVID-19.