Auckland Council (New Zealand) has defended its choice to accept visitors regardless of their vaccination status to stay at its campgrounds during the holiday season, even with the fact that nearly all Council facilities require a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
The unvaccinated public is not allowed on council-owned facilities, including pools, gyms, leisure centers, holiday parks, and libraries.
Not included on the list are community facilities for hire, cemeteries, waste transfer stations, beaches, and campgrounds. However, campgrounds personnel are required to be fully vaccinated.
The decision was made despite Auckland Mayor Phil Goff only last week declaring that the council has a “responsibility to do all we can to reduce the possibility of transmission within our facilities and keep our staff and customers as safe as possible.”
The Department of Conservation (DoC), in turn, has closed campsites and huts for ages 12 and over who don’t have an acceptable exemption.
However, Auckland Council’s general manager of parks, sport, and recreation Mace Ward stood by the council’s decision, saying it was based upon an assessment of risks conducted before DoC made its position.
“The risk assessment took into account that back-to-basics beach campgrounds allow for wide spacings, are highly ventilated spaces, and users are mainly in family or friend groups from the same bubble,” he added.
Ward advised people who use campsites to wear masks and use hand sanitizer.
However, unvaccinated council employees are not allowed from council workplaces. They have until January 17, 2022, to adhere.
In making the announcement, DoC heritage and visitors director Steve Taylor said many huts are often isolated or off-grid and allow people to meet from different locations. Therefore vaccinations provide a “higher level of protection” against the risk of spreading the virus.
Visitors must confirm their vaccination status when making their reservation and have it checked by the hut wardens and camp hosts on the site.
Taylor stated that if COVID-19 management becomes unpractical, sites could be temporarily shut down.