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Rush to facilitate new Covid settings


The Government is rightly facing strong criticism for its last-minute rush towards implementing the traffic light framework and vaccine mandates later next week, with Parliament going into urgency yesterday for the first reading of legislation that makes a slew of changes to our Covid-19 response — changes signalled a month ago, that will have been being developed for weeks before then.

As Parliament is in recess next week, there are only two days for this hugely-significant bill to be debated; with no public input and without select committee review.

This for laws that restrict the lives of people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19; mandate certain businesses to police vaccine passes on entry; and allow businesses to require their staff to be vaccinated if they work in certain roles, and sack them if they don't.

Vaccine mandates will soon apply to about 40 percent of the New Zealand workforce, with the new legislation covering all employees in hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms.

Businesses and sectors that fall under the new mandate — which comes into force next Friday — and fail to enforce vaccine passes will face fines of up to $15,000.

People who work in these sectors who remain unvaccinated have a limited time to get their first dose; it needs to be done by next Friday. If they do not and their employment agreement is terminated, a new four-week paid notice period will be applied. Businesses will also be required by law to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.

Retailers are exempt from the vaccine mandate, but can choose to adopt the pass system.

Businesses that require a vaccine pass have been advised to download the Ministry of Health's NZ Pass Verify App, which allows them to scan and verify their customers' My Vaccine Pass or vaccine certificate.

For businesses that aren't covered by a vaccine mandate, an assessment tool is being developed for those keen to work out who of their staff should be required to be vaccinated. It will likely involve four factors around the type of work environment, with three higher-risk indicators needing to be met before it would be reasonable for a mandate to be imposed on staff.

East Coast MP Kiri Allan says she will be in Gisborne next week to talk to businesses about the changes and to answer questions. One also wonders what Trust Tairawhiti/our economic development agency is doing to advise and help prepare our business community.

Leave a Reply to Manu Caddie Cancel reply

  1. Manu Caddie says:

    Earlier this year an interesting paper was published by a group of Auckland law school academics about the legality and legitimacy of the initial Covid lockdown in New Zealand and potential subsequent legislation related to the pandemic response.

    ‘Legality in times of emergency: assessing NZ’s response to Covid-19’ written by Prof Janet McLean, Dr Arie Rosen, Assoc Prof Nicole Roughan & Dr Jesse Wall was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand and worth reading as a response to your concerns given the similar criticisms around the urgency of the legislation introduced and likely passed under urgency this week to reduce the risk of the virus spreading uncontrollably.

    The authors cover a range of relevant philosophical perspectives around the norms of law making, limits on political power and the role of government in the protection of public, especially in times of crisis and emergencies. The conclusion points out that while the High Court found the government acted beyond its rule-prescribed competences for the first nine days of the first lockdown, it is significant, that at no point did the Government invoke powers that would have been hostile to the principles of legality. The principles of continued governance through general, public, clear, and prospective rules, reasoned decision-making, and subjection to supervision from the courts, have not been openly challenged, and have been largely upheld by the ordinary operation of legal institutions.

    “The litigation and many of the media debates around the ‘legality of lockdown’ centred on the question whether governmental action was authorised by statutory rules. This is understandable, since, as we have seen, adherence to rules is a key dimension of legality. However, criticism of the lack of formal authorisation, without sufficient regard to the greater ideal of legality and its effective restraint on power and protection of persons, is dangerous and should be avoided. It might lead the government of the day (through Parliament) to pass ever-broader authorising rules which satisfy the point of formality but would pose a more severe threat to the values served by legality, at least as an ideal. Overly broad and indeterminate use of statutory powers can give rise to unchecked discretion, while only retaining the pretence of a rule-based framework.”

    “The overall adherence to the principles of legality – not only to proper authorisation – is significant for those who are subject to law and to executive power. It recognises the value inherent in seeing persons not only as means for the successful resolution of the crisis, but also as agents deserving of treatment as such. In light of this, we can begin to examine whether imposed ‘Orders’ and freshly authorised restrictions could be a genuine exercise of legitimate authority, guiding people’s collective response to a crisis – making possible effective courses of action which are unavailable to persons by themselves. If law presents and represents a shared standard that governs behaviour evenly, it may enable us to act together on the reasons that apply to us separately.”