Northland bus drivers will not act as enforcers when mask-wearing on public transport becomes mandatory on Monday.
The national policy under alert level 2 means a mask, scarf or a similar face covering is necessary from Monday while using Whangārei's CityLink bus service as well as the Mid North Link, Hokianga Link, Far North Link and Bream Bay Link.
For total mobility vehicles, which included taxis, Driving Miss Daisy and smaller vans, face coverings were necessary for drivers but not passengers. There were exemptions for people with a disability or physical or mental health condition which made covering their face inappropriate.
Face masks would not be provided by the services.
The policy also applied to the Fullers GreatSights ferry services in the Bay of Islands and Hokianga for walk-on passengers. Passengers who remained in their vehicle were not required to wear a mask, but were recommended to wear one when interacting with staff.
Social distancing rules still applied. Children under 12 and people on school buses were exempt from wearing a mask.
Northland Regional Council councillor John Bain, also the chairman of the Northland regional transport committee, said operators and drivers were not expected to act as enforcement officers and weren't required to refuse entry to those not wearing a mask.
However, Bain said anyone caught by police not wearing a mask without a reasonable excuse could be instantly fined $300 or fined up to $1000 imposed through the courts.
He said security arrangements, most likely personnel from the bus companies, would be making sure transport users were aware of the new policy.
Bain encouraged public transport users to comply with the policy to show a collective commitment to safety.
"We're hoping that all public transport users will do their bit and follow the new rules and not make life unnecessarily difficult or potentially risky for service operators and of course other passengers."
Bain thanked service operators for their work on the frontline of New Zealand's Covid-19 response.
"Even though Northland is currently not facing the most severe Covid-related restrictions, transport workers are again at the forefront of our region's Covid-19 response and I'd like to express my thanks to them."
More information about the new rules on face masks on public transport is available online at www.nrc.govt.nz/facemaskFAQs.