HDC - Splash Planet - Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 27 December 2015. Photo by John Cowpland / alphapix

Planning is continuing to open Splash Planet for this coming summer season, with an opening date of November 16.

The Hastings facility is one of Hawke’s Bay’s biggest family attractions and a drawcard for both locals and out-of-town visitors every summer.

With the impact of COVID-19 and Alert Level restrictions, Hastings District Council’s strategy and policy committee was last week asked to decide whether it considered whether or not there was too much risk in opening this summer.

Committee members adjourned that meeting to await the government’s announcement on Monday this week regarding upcoming Alert Level changes.

With the indications that, aside from Auckland, the rest of the country would likely return to Level 1 next Monday, the committee made the decision to reopen, while making all efforts to manage any health or financial risks, should the situation change and the country or region enter Level 2 or higher again.

Committee chair Bayden Barber said it was important for both the local community as well as those who travelled to the facility to be open for business as fully as possible within Alert Levels 1 and 2.

While council staff would now get underway with the recruitment process for staff to work the season, scenarios were still being modelled for a return Level 2, which may require different ways of operating.

This could include closing the water facilities and only having the park open, breaking the opening hours up into sessions or other ways to operate while limiting gatherings to 100 people.

“We just have to be able to be flexible – for me, this is first and foremost a park – if we have to find ways to fence off areas we have to do that,” Mr Barber said.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was important to understand the costs and council needed to be kept aware of the financial implications going forward.

“The community needs a place to go and have some fun, we need to be able to mitigate and manage the risks and the costs and find ways to have the place open.”

The committee delegated the plan to open for the season to the chief executive, as well as the management of opening times and patronage, acknowledging the risk of changes in Alert Levels and the consequences for operational losses.

The chief executive would return to council to seek further governance guidance on operational plans for Splash Planet if New Zealand or the region moved to Level 2 or other restrictions.

Contact tracing would be a priority regardless of any level restrictions.

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