ZB

District Council changes vaccine policy, unvaxxed staff can attend 'critical' meetings

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tue, 25 Jan 2022, 2:43pm

District Council changes vaccine policy, unvaxxed staff can attend 'critical' meetings

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tue, 25 Jan 2022, 2:43pm

Thames-Coromandel District Council has made a last-minute change to its vaccination policy so that unvaccinated staff members, contractors and elected members can attend critical meetings at the council.

The council's vaccination policy requiring all employers and councillors to be double-jabbed was introduced on January 17.

But just a week on, the council has softened the policy to allow unvaccinated workers including staff, contractors and elected members who provide a negative Rapid Antigen Test result within 72 hours of the meeting time to attend.

A group manager or the chief executive must deem the meeting as critical.

"Our unvaccinated staff must continue to work remotely, and if they are required by their group manager to attend a critical meeting they must provide a negative RAT test," TCDC chief executive Rob Williams said.

"Our aim during a period where there is not yet any community transmission in our district is to keep all of our staff connected and monitored for their well-being and performance. If we do have confirmation of community transmission in our district, then we'll review our policy again."

The council will pay for RAT testing for employees, but contractors and elected members have to cover the cost themselves.

Today Thames Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie was forced to chair her first council meeting remotely because she does not have a vaccine pass.

Goudie has previously said she will not get the Pfizer vaccine and is instead waiting for the Novavax vaccine to become available in New Zealand.

Goudie told the Herald this morning's meeting went well and she had no issue with chairing further meetings from home.

Goudie had not sought any advice about whether the monthly council meetings would meet the critical criteria, but said she "wouldn't imagine so".

"If I need to go into a council meeting and I can get a Rapid Antigen Test then yeah, but I'm not aware that I can get any. I don't know what the current situation is," she said.

"I was quite comfortable with today. It went really well."

The live-streamed meeting only ran for four minutes, but the council had been in a workshop for two hours prior to opening it up to the public.

Even though Goudie can no longer go into council's offices, she said she was still able to connect with constituents over the phone and out on the street.

The council's policy requires staff or contractors to have had two doses of the Pfizer or Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccination. A third booster shot is not required at this stage.

TCDC is one of few councils that does not require members of the public to have vaccine passes to enter public facilities stating it doesn't need to while Covid-19 is not active in the district.

Waikato Regional Council cancelled a meeting today where councillors had planned to discuss making an exception to its vaccine policy so elected members could attend formal council meetings in the chamber providing they produced two negative test results.

The regional council is making vaccine passes mandatory at all its sites - with the exception of the Hamilton Transport Centre - from February 1.

The item may now be discussed at a full council meeting at the end of February.
At least one regional councillor remains unvaccinated and will be required to attend remotely.