Covid-19: Kaipara ratepayers won't pay for rapid antigen tests used by unvaccinated councillors

4:04 pm on 31 January 2022

Kaipara ratepayers will not be paying for rapid antigen tests used by elected representatives who choose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

A Kaipara District Council meeting in Dargaville Town Hall in April 2021

A Kaipara District Council meeting in Dargaville Town Hall in April 2021. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

Kaipara District Council (KDC) mayor Dr Jason Smith said councillors who chose not to be vaccinated against the virus would need to personally pay for rapid antigen tests (RATs).

"KDC's approach is that any elected member who seeks a rapid antigen test rather than vaccination would be paying for those tests personally and not claiming this as a council expense," Smith said.

"From a health/risk perspective, a RAT is not a substitute for vaccination."

His comments come ahead of KDC's first meeting of the year, to be held face-to-face in the council-owned and managed Dargaville Town Hall, tomorrow. Covid-19 vaccination passports are required to get into the building.

Smith said elected members who were able to meet council health and safety requirements for Dargaville Town Hall's entry would be able to attend the briefing meeting in person. KDC has a mayor and eight councillors.

"...any unvaccinated people are not permitted to enter. This applies to elected members who may be unvaccinated and cannot show a vaccine pass," Smith said.

Dr Jason Smith, Kaipara Mayor.

Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith. Photo: Northern Advocate / Tania Whyte via LDR

He said all but one of his eight councillors had confirmed their vaccination status to him. He did not know the Covid-19 vaccination status of the eighth.

He identified the numbers, but not councillor names or whether they were vaccinated.

Local Democracy Reporting has been able to confirm the vaccination status of all but one of the KDC's political representatives.

Smith, Deputy Mayor Anna Curnow and councillors Karen Joyce-Paki, Johnathan Larsen, Mark Vincent, Peter Wethey, David Wills and Eryn Wilson-Collins are at least double vaccinated. A number have had a booster shot or are planning to do so as soon as they are eligible.

KDC West Coast/Central ward councillor Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock did not confirm her vaccination status, including specifically whether she was unvaccinated.

"It is my personal medical information that I do not share, on principle. I think it is a breach of a person's privacy. Many breaches of civil liberties are being conducted under the guise of public health and it's wrong. There are common law principles of individual sovereignty, first do no harm and the right to have individual sovereignty, as well as New Zealand's Bill of Rights Act 1990," del la Varis-Woodcock said in response.

"Elected members need to be a role model, need to stand for values of respect, of civil liberties and human rights."

The Ministry of Health website says RATs are not a replacement for vaccination.

Dargaville Town Hall

Dargaville Town Hall. Photo: Northern Advocate via LDR

Smith said he had last year requested elected members provide their Covid-19 vaccine passport to the council's governance team for ease of management on meeting days.

He said elected members who could not show a vaccine pass would be able to join meetings by audio or possibly, video link.

Smith said vaccination was important for elected representatives.

"Elected members have to be able to be trusted by everyone to be able to do their job. They should remove barriers to engagement and not set themselves up so that people may be fearful of them. Health and safety is of the highest importance," Smith said.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said it strongly encouraged its members, as community leaders, to follow public policy advice around Covid-19 such as getting vaccinated and boosted.

Meanwhile, vaccination passports are also required for KDC's elected representatives using meeting rooms in the Mangawhai domain administration building where the council also holds face-to-face meetings.

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