Cost was the main factor in a decision not to require proof of vaccination for entry into public facilities such as pools and libraries, Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber says.
A variety of decisions is emerging as councils around the country decide whether to mandate showing a My Vaccine Pass to enter public facilities from Friday when the new Covid protection framework kicks in.
Under the framework's red and orange settings public facilities such as pools, libraries, museums and recreation centres can open with capacity limits based on one metre distancing.
Councils can choose whether to require vaccine passes and effectively ban unvaccinated people. Unlike the rules for sectors such as hospitality and retail, the decision does not impact how many people can be in a facility.
Auckland and Taupō councils - both of which will go into the red setting on Friday - have elected not to allow unvaccinated people to use most public facilities. So have Christchurch and Hamilton, which - like the Western Bay and Tauranga - will start at orange. Some councils won't require the passes for some facilities for two weeks.
Western Bay council chief executive John Holyoake said in a statement the decision not to use the My Vaccine Pass system was "not made lightly".
He said the public service organisation was committed to keeping people safe, but would not be "restricting people depending on their personal vaccine choices".
"Many of our council facilities are important hubs across the district for a range of services and so we will continue to make calculated decisions to balance continuity of council services with the safety of the public.
Appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures will continue.
Holyoake said the council was looking for "innovative ways" to provide safe access to services and would adapt where it could, such as offering click-and-collect library services and continued virtual council meetings.
Webber told the Bay of Plenty Times the council decided it would be too difficult and pricey to hire security guards or staff to check vaccine passes.
"To put people in place to monitor people coming into pools ... and public spaces is just too hard and too expensive. It's just a pragmatic approach."
"Someone has got to pay the bill and that is the ratepayers."
He said the council had not calculated how many extra staff would be required or the estimated cost.
Webber, an advocate for vaccinations, said he believed everyone should get the jabs, but he could not make it compulsory so the council just had to hope people did the right thing.
Asked if vaccinated people may feel more at risk using council facilities also open to unvaccinated people, Webber said it was a situation where "you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."
"You hope like hell New Zealand follows the Government guidelines, because that's the best scientific evidence we've got."
Stuart Crosby, Bay of Plenty regional councillor and president of Local Government New Zealand, said responding to the traffic light system was challenging for councils.
While they had been provided with professional guidance, it was up to each council to implement the traffic light system, which was resulting in "variations up and down New Zealand".
He said all facilities were different and council chief executives also faced challenges relating to whether frontline staff were vaccinated.
"The main issue will be for councils to communicate with their communities so there are no surprises when people turn up to use a pool or a library."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said a benefit of Western Bay's decision was that the council would not be "competing with local businesses to hire from a very limited, available labour force to police the vaccine passes."
Tauranga City Council has yet to confirm its approach to public facilities under orange.
Gareth Wallis, general manager of community services, said the council was reviewing local government guidance.
He told the Bay of Plenty Times it was "likely" that some additional staff or security would be needed to operate within the new system, and that some staff will need additional training.
Both Rotorua and Taupō district councils have announced they will require the use of My Vaccine Pass for most public facilities.
In the Eastern Bay, Whakatāne District Council will make a decision on its approach in an emergency meeting on Thursday, with Kawerau District Council also set to meet as it considers its options.
Ōpōtiki District Council would be operating without vaccine passes until it made a final call.
On Auckland Council's decision to bar unvaccinated people from council-staffed services, mayor Phil Goff said the decision would help keep the council's staff and customers safe and has his support.
He said research had shown the risk of infection between two unvaccinated people is 20-fold higher than between two vaccinated people.
Western Bay public facilities at orange
Vaccinated and unvaccinated people will be able to access the district's
• Five libraries and service centres
• this includes Barkes Corner in terms of council meetings (the public was encouraged to do this online)
• Two swimming pools
• Four recycling and greenwaste centres
• TECT Park
Source: Western Bay of Plenty District Council