'Flabbergasted': Vaccine pass not required for council services in Hipkins' electorate

Photo: NZ Herald
Photo: NZ Herald
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 percent first dose and 92 percent 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, where all other councils – Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt and the Kāpiti Coast – require 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 be 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 has been approached for comment.

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