Busy time for ‘essential’ staff

Waipā District Council parks and reserves supervisors Craig McCurdy and Stephen Bagnall at Leamington Cemetery. Photo: Supplied.

Wearing personal protective equipment, two Waipā Disrtict Council staff have continued an “especially significant” essential role throughout the nation-wide Covid-19 lockdown.

Waipā District Council parks and reserves supervisors Craig McCurdy and Stephen Bagnall manage the district’s 10 cemeteries, conducting several burial services.

“We’re doing our utmost to ensure families who lose loved ones at this time have the proper opportunity, as best we can give them, to pay their respects,” Craig said.

Given Covid-19, wearing PPE gear ensured the safety of everyone involved as that happened, he said.

Craig and Stephen have worked with Council for 14 years and 10 years respectively.

Craig said when burials happen during lockdown, where possible families in their bubble could be graveside as loved ones were laid to rest.

“Several family members who have been in that situation have said just how special it was being able to be there. From our perspective, we want to do the best we can by them too.”

Burials occur as they are booked and additional cemetery and park checks happen three times a week.

All told, the pair are two of the Council’s nearly 100 staff – about a third of its entire workforce – who are essential service workers during lockdown.

Roles include everything from water and parks services, animal control, recycling collection and maintaining roads to urgent building compliance work.

Parks and reserves teams manage park and garden maintenance in Cambridge, Kihikihi and Te Awamutu.

Staff ensure there are no health and safety issues at parks and reserves. They monitor closed playgrounds, skateparks and boat ramps, remotely communicate with both their staff teams and take customer calls.

“We’re doing our utmost to ensure families who lose loved ones at this time have the proper opportunity, as best we can give them, to pay their respects.”

Craig said lockdown was a “very busy time juggling everything”.

“We need to be agile and respond as and when needed.”

Daily face to face interaction with his team had been replaced by technology like Zoom and Facetime.

Council chief executive Garry Dyet said residents might not realise what happened in the background to provide services which sustained Waipā.

“These staff carry out vital duties, without which life could be much harder for everyone. The work done in the background isn’t often noticed but could cripple the district if it wasn’t being done.

“Unlike most of us they are leaving their homes, their families and their bubbles to go out and do their jobs. We are very lucky to have such committed people in these roles.”

Currently, 36 essential Council staff work in the Western Waikato Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) – a regional operations centre tasked with carrying out Civil Defence emergency management.

As well as the Council’s 98 critical roles, about 60 percent of its staff, or 189 people, are working from home during lockdown.

More information on the essential services operating during lockdown is available at www.waipadc.govt.nz/covid-19-information.

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