Vandervis trespassed from DCC over vax pass

A trespass notice has been issued against a Dunedin city councillor who tried to attend a council meeting without a Covid-19 vaccine pass.

The Dunedin City Council requires the pass to be produced for entry into council buildings under the Orange setting of the Government’s Covid-19 traffic light system, but Cr Lee Vandervis was not deterred.

He did not provide evidence of vaccination and tried to attend yesterday afternoon’s meeting in person, the council said.

He was asked to leave the building, but declined, and police then served the trespass notice, the council said.

Police confirmed there was a trespass incident about 2.10pm in the Octagon.

The meeting was delayed almost two hours.

Cr Vandervis - a vaccine mandates critic - has argued the council’s policy about vaccine passes is impeding his ability to carry out his role as an elected official.

‘‘Any attempt to restrict me, based on vaccination status, is illegal,’’ Cr Vandervis said.

A trespass notice has been issued against a Dunedin city councillor who tried to attend a council meeting without a Covid-19 vaccine pass. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A trespass notice has been issued against a Dunedin city councillor who tried to attend a council meeting without a Covid-19 vaccine pass. Photo: Gregor Richardson

He had contacted council chief executive Sandy Graham about what appeared to be a breach of process, he said.

Cr Vandervis cited legal advice from Chapman Tripp and said if an elected official was prevented from performing functions, the local authority ‘‘would not be able to remove that official’’ and it would need to consider other safety measures, besides vaccination, that could be implemented.

Ms Graham said elected members who could not produce a pass could attend meetings remotely by using a Zoom link.

This allowed councillors to exercise their roles as elected officials, Ms Graham said.

Ms Graham said the decision to issue the trespass notice was not made lightly and the council had a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect staff, the public and elected members.

Cr Vandervis quoted advice from the Ministry of Health to clinicians about treating people who chose not to be vaccinated.

When there was high vaccination coverage, a health professional was more likely to catch Covid-19 from a vaccinated than unvaccinated person, the ministry said last month.

Access to essential services, including healthcare services, could not be restricted based on vaccination status.

Cr Vandervis said carrying out the functions of local government was essential.

He had proposed precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask unless he was speaking, and arriving and leaving at a different time from other councillors to avoid meeting staff in the hallway.

Yesterday’s meeting was scheduled to go ahead in the Edinburgh Room of the Municipal Chambers at 1pm and Cr Vandervis said he was there, but not told of any change of plan.

The council said the meeting was initially moved to the Otaru Room, inside the Civic Centre, and then immediately adjourned, pending a resolution of the trespass issue.

The meeting later resumed in the Municipal Chambers.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz 

 

 

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