People will need to be fully vaccinated to book Doc huts, campsites

Loch Maree Hut in Fiordland. Photo: DOC
Loch Maree Hut in Fiordland. Photo: DOC
People will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to be able to stay in Department of Conservation huts and campsites from 15 December.

The department announced the decision today, saying that visitors would need to confirm all of their party were fully vaccinated when booking.

Hut wardens and camp hosts would be checking for vaccination status and there would be spot checks at more remote huts and smaller campsites that were not bookable.

People who were not fully vaccinated could still use tracks and most Doc toilets but could not use Doc hut facilities or campsites.

The department will contact people ahead of their bookings advising them that they need to be fully vaccinated or their booking would need to be cancelled.

Doc heritage and visitors director Steve Taylor said their visitor survey data and visitor feedback showed strong desire for confidence that others sharing Doc accommodation were also vaccinated.

"Doc's accommodation is often remote, off the grid and brings people together from all locations. Vaccination provides a higher level of protection and significantly reduces the risk of infection spreading and people suffering serious illness," Taylor said.

"Where issues arise for higher-risk sites - such as popular unbookable huts and campsites - some facilities may need to be closed at red or orange and people should prepare for this possibility when planning a trip.

"We are asking all members of the public to respect the health and safety of others. When requested you must show your COVID-19 vaccine certificate. We will be monitoring peoples' compliance and regularly reviewing our policy. If there are problems with non-compliance, Doc will assess whether facilities need to be closed."

Taylor told Checkpoint it's an honesty system in some of the more remote areas without staffing.

If someone was found without having a vaccine pass, Taylor said the first priority was to keep people safe.

"If it's not safe, if there's a storm blowing out there...we'll work with people to make sure they're isolated...we have to apply some commonsense."

Doc would be providing a full refund to those who were unwell, subject to travel restrictions, concerned about Covid risks or who were not fully vaccinated, he said.

"These health and safety measures are being implemented to help keep visitors and staff safe and ensure New Zealanders can have a fantastic summer enjoying nature."

This week, department was consulting on whether all staff, contractors and volunteers will need to be vaccinated to work in or visit Doc workplaces including visitors centres.

A vaccination policy for staff was expected in the next fortnight.

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