Traffic light system: Hamilton's big push ahead of December 3

Hamilton city councillors will debate whether people attending council meetings should show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.
Christel Yardley/Stuff
Hamilton city councillors will debate whether people attending council meetings should show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.

Public venues in Hamilton could soon be off limits to those who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

City councillors will meet with council management on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of attendees at council meetings needing to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19.

The meeting will also canvass whether visitors to council facilities, such as libraries and pools, should also be required to carry a vaccine passport.

And it comes as the Government announces it will shift the whole country to the new Covid traffic light framework on December 3.

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Veteran city councillor Dave Macpherson,​ together with councillor Ewan Wilson,​ has drafted a policy that would require those attending council meetings to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons would be exempt from the rule.

A lot of public discussion to date had focused on the rights of people to choose whether to be vaccinated, Macpherson said.

Hamilton city councillor Dave Macpherson, together with councillor Ewan Wilson, has put forward a policy that would require those attending public council meetings to be fully vaccinated unless medically exempt. (File photo)
Tom Lee/Stuff
Hamilton city councillor Dave Macpherson, together with councillor Ewan Wilson, has put forward a policy that would require those attending public council meetings to be fully vaccinated unless medically exempt. (File photo)

“I am more concerned about the rights of people to be safe,” he said.

“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I think you are nuts, but that is cool, you can attend council meetings via Zoom, or you can set up an automatic payment for your council bills.”

Council policies around public meetings and its venues needed to be established before the Government introduced its traffic light framework, Macpherson said.

Stuart Crosby, ​president of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), said councils nationwide were grappling with how to create safe work environments in the wake of Delta.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate is supportive of vaccine passports. (File photo)
Tom Lee/Stuff
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate is supportive of vaccine passports. (File photo)

LGNZ has a staff member working almost exclusively on the issue, Crosby said.

“Our understanding is it is effectively a health and safety issue at the moment, and comes under the gambit of [council] chief executive officers and whatever safety plan they choose to put in place,” he said.

“I am sure there are bespoke options up and down New Zealand at the moment which is not helpful because we do need a national guideline.”

Legal advice provided to councils from LGNZ notes elected members are not employed by local authorities and it may not be possible to require them to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, councils could make a policy directing only vaccinated people be allowed in council workspaces.

The city council will have to provide library services to residents who are not vaccinated, Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate says.
MARK TAYLOR/Stuff
The city council will have to provide library services to residents who are not vaccinated, Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate says.

Inquiries from Stuff indicate all of Hamilton City Council’s elected wing has received two vaccine doses.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate​ said Tuesday’s briefing would examine the council’s staff vaccination policy, and proposed policies for public facilities and meetings held in the council’s debating chamber.

Southgate said a public safety “lens” should be applied to such issues.

“If I was given the choice of going into a library or restaurant where people had to be double vaxxed, or go to a place where vaccination certificates were not required, I would to go to places where a vaccination certificate was required,” she said.

Like Macpherson, Southgate said council policies relating to the vaccine passport need to be in place before the country moved to the traffic light framework.

At November’s full council meeting, elected members expressed frustration that more progress had not been made with the council’s Covid policies.

Council chief executive Lance Vervoort,​ speaking at the time, said staff had completed risk assessments on all its staff roles and had carried out a staff survey relating to vaccinations.

“The other thing we are working through is just which facilities [will] ... require the vaccine certification for entry by the public,” Vervoort said.