By ROBYN BRISTOW
North Canterbury Councils require vaccine passes at many of their premises and facilities following the change to Red under the Covid-19 traffic light system.
They say while it’s mainly be business as usual, Red protocols will require people to present their vaccine certificates, wear masks, and socially distance.
Waimakariri chief executive Jim Harland says all council services and facilities will remain open throughout the Red alert level.
“The requirement for customers to show a My Vaccine Pass, in our busiest public facilities, means customers won’t see a profound change in how we’re operating.
“There will primarily be small tweaks such as reviewing our requirements for distancing, mask use, and a big focus on making sure we don’t breach any of the new capacity limits.
Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon says he’s encouraging everyone to remain calm, work with the restrictions and be prepared.
“I’d encourage everyone to make sure you’re ready for Omicron. Make sure you get your booster shot when eligible and ensure you scan or sign in and wear your mask when out and about.
“We all can help minimise the risk of Covid-19 in our community by making sure we play by the rules and each do our part in limiting the spread on this latest variant.”
The Hurunui District Council has moved to requiring staff and public to have vaccine passes to enter all council service centres, libraries, including the main Hurunui Library in Amberley.
Council’s chief executive Officer Hamish Dobbie says the move is to ensure the health and safety of staff, and slow the transmission of Omicron.
“It’s about everyone’s protection. We need to keep our staff healthy so they can help keep the community healthy.”
To keep within the government’s guidelines of Red setting, council’s essential workforce will be splitting into self-contained teams, so there is no cross over of use of vehicles, papers or tools, and no physical interaction.
“Our teams will see changes within their own operations, but as far as the people of Hurunui are concerned, there will be no disruption to delivery of services, normality will continue.”
Mr Dobbie says the traffic light system is a “moving beast”, and council is doing its upmost to continue quality delivery of services, while keeping everyone’s safety at the forefront.
“It’s frustrating times for all of us, so I thank you for your co-operation as we work through this together.”
Waiau and Rotherham community swimming pools will not require a My Vaccine Pass. For community halls the onus lies on the person hiring the facility who must comply with government guidelines. Reserves and playgrounds are open to those with and without a My Vaccine Pass. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa entry does require a My Vaccine Pass.
Entry to the main Kaikoura Council building on West End will be by Vaccine Pass only. This applies to everyone over 12 and includes the museum, library, council chambers and offices, Environment Canterbury and the Kaikoura Star Office.
“In addition to vaccine passes we will continue to require people to wear masks, limit the numbers of people in our buildings and facilities to ensure good physical distancing can be maintained, signing in and regular cleaning to ensure any potential health risks remain low.
“The overriding consideration is keeping our people and community safe.
“Vaccination remains our strongest and most effective tool to protect against infection and disease, and we need the staff and the community, especially our vulnerable, to continue to access facilities safely,” a Kaikoura spokesperson says.
Meanwhile Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey is concerned about the lack of preparation for the arrival of omicron in the community.
“It does feel like we aren’t prepared for omicron as much as we could have been. I have been calling for rapid antigen testing for those travelling to the South Island for months now. Overseas, rapid antigen testing kits are sold freely in supermarkets whereas here some New Zealand companies are still waiting for permission to import them.”
Mr Doocey says thankfully the Canterbury District Health Board has worked hard, after a slow start, to increase vaccination rates across the region.
“I’d like to thank our hard working vaccinators and encourage everyone who can to get the booster. Due to the government’s lack of planning for much of 2021, New Zealand had the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world. Now Omicron is here, and we are the fourth slowest in the developed world for boosters.”
Business owners, who had contacted him, were worried about the financial impacts of the latest outbreak, he says.
“Whether it’s our local accommodation and hospitality sector concerned in the drop off of customers, or our local building sector who are concerned about supply chains, I’m working hard to ensure they receive the support they need to keep people in jobs,” says Mr Doocey.