WARWICK SMITH / Stuff
Vaccine requirements are expected to be illegal for school activities in public facilities from mid-March.
Invercargill City Council has been told that vaccine requirements for school activities in public places will be made illegal in the coming weeks.
In December, the council voted to introduce a policy requiring anyone over the age of 12 entering various facilities, such as the Splash Palace swimming pool and the Invercargill Library, should be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said last month that schoolchildren who have not been vaccinated should not be prevented from accessing education and the activities that go with it.
At a meeting last week, the Invercargill board discussed the challenges for people like Splash Palace to provide educational events with its own defined space in a venue that currently has a vaccine requirement.
Councilors agreed at the meeting to review its vaccine policy in April.
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However, the next day, council staff received an email from Sport New Zealand and another from the Home Affairs Department, which highlighted that the Minister for Education was proposing further changes to extra-curricular school activities.
The director of the Council’s leisure and recreation group, Steve Gibling, said the emails said it would become illegal to require vaccine passes for school activities in public settings.
He also indicated that the legislation would come into effect no later than March 15, Gibling said.
“This essentially means that children and young people around an organized school activity, as a team, in a group or individually, cannot be asked for a vaccine pass and must be treated by an activity organizer or a operator of place as if they were vaccinated.”
The council still plans to review its own policy in April, but once the legislation is passed, in accordance with the law, it would not require vaccination passports at council-owned facilities for those attending activities organized by the school.
Gibling used an example where someone attending school water polo on a Friday night at Splash Palace would not be required to produce a vaccination passport.
However, if that person showed up the next day in a personal capacity, they would be required to show their vaccination passport.
The legislation will also apply to He Waka Tuia and Invercargill Public Library.
Cr Nigel Skelt, who is also chief executive of ILT Stadium Southland, felt the legislation would add further confusion to the community.
“While we as site operators, and managers, and as a council team are struggling to understand the latest executive order that has come out, the problem we already have parents with is the confusion they have,” Skelt said.
Skelt used the example where during the week a team could play as part of a school activity and not need a vaccine passport. But on Saturday, two school teams playing in the club competition hosted by the Invercargill Netball Center may need it.
“Where does this take us?”
For ILT Stadium Southland to operate with a 100 person limit on its site, it must have a vaccine passport requirement in place as per the red light setting. Otherwise, the number would be limited to 25.
“At this time it is extremely confusing, and my main concern is for site managers dealing with moms, dads and caregivers on current policy,” Skelt said.