Vax certificate recipe more critical than biscuits’

The biscuits, mostly intact, after their Dunedin-Auckland-Dunedin journey. PHOTO: ELSPETH MCLEAN
The biscuits, mostly intact, after their Dunedin-Auckland-Dunedin journey. PHOTO: ELSPETH MCLEAN
For a while I thought the Auckland-dwelling sister had forgotten her manners.

I tried to be understanding. Prolonged lockdowns could do that to a person.

Perhaps she was having constant bad hair days because it was so long since she had been to a hairdresser.

Eventually, I had to ask.

Had my birthday biscuits arrived?

(Said biscuits were not posted until five days after her birthday, but given the current pressure on postal services, that guilty fact would be lost in transportation. In any case, family members would be shocked should my gifts arrive on time.)

No, and she had long since polished off my earlier sample of my home-made digestives.

Gritting my teeth, I knew I would have to do something. Doing something does not come naturally when the something I am best at doing is procrastinating.

I looked up the NZ Post website which told me the Covid-19 alert level restrictions meant there were delays and not to contact the support team unless an Auckland delivery had been delayed by more than 10 working days. I wasn’t sure what that meant — don’t postal services work seven days behind the scenes?

Whichever way I counted, 10 days had passed. Not wanting to be more of a bother than I needed to be, I registered what I thought were the tracking details on the NZ Post website. I was not convinced they were for that particular parcel, but they were the only ones I had pasted into my diary. NZ Post could provide no tracking information.

Seventeen days after posting, I decided it was time to inquire about the parcel’s whereabouts. Trying to do this on the Sunday of Labour Weekend proved fruitless — the message on the website said the form was temporarily unavailable because ‘‘we’re receiving a high number of enquiries. To help us answer all of the queries we received we temporarily closed this form until 8am Monday’’.

A message from the NZ Post website at Labour Weekend.
A message from the NZ Post website at Labour Weekend.
This was accompanied by an illustration of a postal worker in an astronaut suit who appeared to be disappearing into a manhole.

I am not sure why they could not have kept receiving inquiries and doggedly worked their way through them. Maybe the hope was that disgruntled parcel posters would give up.

Perhaps they have been learning from the Government playbook — faff around long enough and hope criticism will miraculously disappear.

It is difficult to understand why there has been no opportunity for public input into the plans for vaccination certificates. The likelihood these would be introduced has been known for months.

Can we be confident all of the complex issues around their introduction have been properly evaluated, including how far their reach should/needs to extend, and what the impact might be of the “them and us’’ discrimination between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated?

On a broader note, how are families which may have both vaccinated and unvaccinated members supposed to deal with family gatherings which might prove riskier than some public places?

As the Privacy Foundation pointed out last month, lack of consultation about the certificates denied the various community groups — those at greatest risk, marginalised groups, and leaders in the area — the chance of contributing to something which is fit for all of us. The foundation sought a comprehensive impact assessment incorporating privacy, social, human rights, and equity concerns.

There is a once-over-lightly approach to some processes around requirements for divulging vaccination status which already concerns me. The privacy statement I was provided with from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, one of the education organisations which requires those working with pupils to be vaccinated, lacked clarity on several points including who might be authorised access to information divulged.

In secondary schools, it would be good to know what rules will apply re access to registers of pupils’ vaccinations kept there. What will happen if parents put pressure on to know about their children’s peers, even though the Government has said unvaccinated pupils cannot be denied access to school?

Back to the biscuit bizzo. Eventually, the inquiry form was back online, and I duly inquired, all the while thinking dark thoughts about the fate of the biscuits.

Last Thursday, three weeks after they left home, the biscuits returned. Despite their travels, they were mostly intact and still edible.

They had not been delivered in Auckland because I left out the unit number of my sister’s apartment and, since I had not included my phone number or hers on the package, back they came.

Damage has been limited to wasting the time of overworked NZ Post staff and my waistline (from eating the well-travelled morsels).

And, I can start again. If we get vaccination certificates and many issues around them wrong, the recipe to remedy that may not be so simple.

  • Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.

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