Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Upper Hutt emergency council meeting over vaccination pass requirement at facilities

An emergency meeting has been called by Upper Hutt City Council after it was decided vaccine passes will not be required at council facilities such as swimming pools and libraries.

The decision made by Upper Hutt on Thursday is at the heart of the Remutaka electorate held by Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said the decision was about “organising life again”.

“The region has very high vaccination rates – about 98 per cent first dose and 92 per cent double – so this is about getting people back, we’re trying not to stay in that siege mentality and get back to normal as soon as possible.”

The decision is an outlier for the Wellington region with all other councils – Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt and the Kāpiti Coast – all requiring vaccine passes for people to use the facilities.

Upper Hutt councillor Dylan Bentley said the decision was an outlier even within the council. He strongly disagrees with the decision and wants council facilities to be for vaccinated people only.

“The vaccine passes are all about protecting the vulnerable in our communities – children who can’t get vaccinated, the immunocompromised and the elderly.

“Our facilities are actually patronised mostly by those groups and by not having vax passes we’re basically saying fair game anyone can go there doesn’t matter if you’re unvaccinated, which in my opinion is not sending the right signal to those who seriously can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and it’s not protecting them.”

Bentley said the decision was not made by councillors but by council staff – and when they were informed late on Wednesday night a number of councillors were “flabbergasted”.

“We’re actually having an emergency meeting today and I’m sure a lot of councillors will voice their concerns.”

While he doesn’t believe the decision can be put to a vote, he says the council can “strongly recommend” it’s reconsidered.

“That’s what I’ll be doing and I hope I’m in the majority here because I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Hipkins told the Herald the decision was one for the Upper Hutt council to make – however, he would like to see it doing more to encourage vaccination.

“The framework is in place to keep people protected from Covid-19 and I would encourage businesses and organisations across the board to encourage vaccination and the use of My Vaccine Pass.”

Lower Hutt mayor 'really disappointed'

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry told the Herald he was “really disappointed” at the lack of cohesion among the councils.

“It makes no sense to have inconsistency across those areas. I’d like to see consistency because as we know, our communities move across areas.”

Barry said having one council which did not require passes would attract a large number of unvaccinated people – who would then head home to their respective regions, creating a high-risk situation.

“We need to remind ourselves that what works currently is very different to how it is now – living with Covid requires different rules.”

Day 1 for traffic light system

Meanwhile, day one of the new traffic light system has finally arrived and for Aucklanders, the chance to head to the gym or out for a meal with friends – albeit with that now all-important vaccine pass.

It was a particularly great start to the weekend for hospitality business owners in the city, who dusted off tables and opened their doors to customers again after more than 100 days in a strict Covid-19 lockdown.

Britomart bistro Ortolana duty manager Ella Xue said she was ecstatic to be back in business this morning.

“I’m actually very excited. Last night I was hoping today was going to be a smash day.”

About 30 people had been through by 8am, all with their vaccine passes.

All customers’ passes were scanned upon entry and no one had expressed any frustration with the process so far, she said.

Regular customers Isabelle, Alan and Steve said it was fantastic to be back to their usual spot.

“We’ll definitely come here and help the business. We feel for the cafe,” Alan said.

All said the vaccine pass process was smooth. Both Isabelle and Steve had cited issues with getting their vaccine pass from the ministry, which had been struggling to service the huge demand for vaccine passes in recent days.

Some people hit the town at the stroke of midnight, when some Auckland pubs decided to open their doors.

Headquarters bar owner Leo Molloy told Three’s AM Show about 50-80 people came into the bar within the first 40 minutes of opening last night.

He said things went smoothly but cited some design flaws with the scanning process, saying it could be very slow at times.

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