Vaccination policies vary at North Canterbury Councils

SHARE

By ADAM BURNS,

LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER

The Hurunui District Council is not recording the vaccination status of its 180-plus employees and is not requiring vaccine passes at its facilities.

But council bosses say it is consulting on an internal vaccination policy for its staff, contractors, and volunteers which is still at the draft stage.

The approach differs from the other North Canterbury councils where restrictions are in place for the Waimakariri and Kaikoura districts.

The Government’s traffic light system is set to be reviewed this week as the threat of the Omicron-variant of Covid-19 looms large.

The system which replaced the alert level framework in early-December has accentuated freedoms for the vaccinated.

Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie says government guidelines have not determined vaccine passes needed to be implemented to date.

“The exception to this is where facilities are not situated on council property and central government has mandated vaccination and the use of vaccine passes,” he says.

There is 187 staff employed by the council, including 129 who were full-time, or full-time equivalents.

“A draft vaccination policy has been developed, and is being consulted on with staff, contractors and volunteers,” Mr Dobbie said.

Orange settings under the traffic light system require tougher restrictions for organisations who were not enforcing vaccine passes.

However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) confirmed there were no restrictions on the number of workers, nor requirements for vaccinations in industries “not captured by specific restrictions in the Covid-19 Protection Framework”.

“Workplaces should consider how they are managing Covid-19 as part of business continuity and health and safety, and take steps they deem appropriate for their specific situation,” an MBIE spokesman said. Council says it is utilising the one metre spacing rule and a “high level of sanitisation”.

Mr Dobbie said it was not recording the vaccination status of staff but it was being policy.

“Health and safety of our facilities for the whole council team and the members of the public who use our facilities is monitored on an ongoing basis and adjustments made as necessary to ensure risks are adequately managed.”

The council-owned Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa however has enforced vaccine passes at the popular attraction.

The Hurunui district is 92 percent fully vaccinated according to latest data from the Ministry of Health.

Some staff have been affected by the Waimakariri District Council’s vaccine requirements for “high risk” positions.

A total of five casual employees who are yet to confirm their vaccination status are no longer being rostered, a council spokesman says.

A further two permanent part-timers are also being treated as unvaccinated by council and a spokesman says it is looking at “redeployment options” for these individuals. There are more than 380 fixed-term and permanent council staff members.

Vaccine passes are required to access aquatic centres, libraries and service centres throughout the district following a council meeting prior to Christmas. Council says the vast majority of feedback received from residents has been positive.

Further north, the Kaikoura District Council said it had lost none of its 36 staff due to vaccine requirements. The council did not confirm if any staff were unvaccinated, due to the small number of staff.

“We will not be releasing details, as staff might be identified,” council corporate services senior manager Murray Dickson says. “Staff are overwhelmingly vaccinated.”

All staff working within the council building, which includes the museum, library, council chambers and Environment Canterbury offices, are required to hold a valid vaccine passport.

A vaccine mandate was confirmed for all 2791 Christchurch City Council employees earlier this month. Questions remain, however, around the vaccination status of more than 500 employees.