On the streets of Whangārei on Friday, there was a mixed feeling among business owners and members of the public as doors opened within the new Covid framework.
"Confusing" is how Whangārei hospitality businesses are describing life at red under the new Covid-19 Protection Framework.
The framework, commonly known as the traffic light system, kicked in on Friday and while the majority of businesses have embraced the 'new normal', they are also finding the use of My Vaccine Pass 'confusing; time-consuming; difficult; and tricky'.
Under red, hospitality venues, such as cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs, can open with customers needed to present a My Vaccine Pass and some other restrictions.
At Whangārei Town Basin, Serenity cafe owner Alfred Hong said most of the customers so far (as at 11am Friday) were compliant with the new rules, but some weren't happy about the system.
The cafe arranged a contactless station for the unvaccinated customers outside the café with a safe 2m distancing.
"We are abiding by the law and doing our best to serve everyone as much as we can. It is very tricky, confusing, and time-consuming. Someone has to be present at the door all the time, and scan everyone's My Vaccine Pass," Hong said.
"It gets more complicated when a group of people are coming in, and a couple of them do not have their passes."
They had to send away two families who could not present their passes on Friday.
The business lost three staff who did not wish to be vaccinated and Hong said it was really sad to let them go.
The Jesus is Lord barbershop on Port Rd was operating without the vaccine pass and the workers did not wear face masks either.
Barber Judah Andrews said he subscribed to He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, signed by a number of Māori chiefs in 1835) and therefore did not need to follow the mandate.
(Despite this claim, the Government says the mandate applies to all).
"I have not had any jab taken in my life and I don't see a point in starting now. I am a healthy young man and do not require the vaccine," Andrews said.
Under the traffic light system, services - including but not limited to barbers, beauty parlours, hairdressers, nail salons, non-medical massage, tattoo parlours, and close contact in-home aid – will require vaccination for all workers under any level.
Barbers cannot operate without seeing My Vaccine Pass from customers under red and orange.
Ben Girininkes, the duty manager of The Quay, at the Town Basin, said although it was a good and much-needed system, it was also "pretty confusing".
Girininkes said people were putting up bad reviews for the restaurant on Google because it chose to follow the law.
"Only a minority of people are complaining, and nothing can be done about them."
There had to be a system put in place to keep the businesses operating, and this is it, said Girininkes.
"We cannot keep going back to lockdowns, businesses cannot afford it. The most important part right now for us [businesses] is figuring out what can and cannot be done.
"It makes sense to continue using this framework as a majority of the people in this country are vaccinated."
The restaurant had to let go of a couple of staff and the owners, who have five restaurants across Northland, lost a handful.
The Hustle lunch bar was operating contactless service and owner Detriece Duxbury said they did not have enough staff to accommodate My Vaccine Pass scanning for every customer.
Another bakery owner, who did not wish to be named, said they did not have enough staffing to implement the scanning for each individual walking into the store.
"We'll have to hire a new person and the business does not have enough money to do that. It is like we are going backwards from functioning normally in level 2 restrictions. This [the new framework] has put more pressure on businesses which were already struggling because of the frequent lockdowns."
Dickens Inn owner Graeme Cundy said it was not an easy system and it was too soon to say whether it would work well, but so far, they faced no troubles.
The staff had to turn away one person, who was part of a group.
"It will be easy as long as people played by the rules and be kind towards us."
Milk & Honey cafe in Kamo chose to operate under a new management structure following the implementation of the traffic light system.
The cafe would operate seven days a week - where they would offer contactless service to unvaccinated people on Sunday and Monday and use the vaccine passport for the remaining days.
In a Facebook post, owners Kelly and Helen Ludlow said, "The divide this creates is heartbreaking for us, we feel this is the best way we can cater for everyone the best we can until such times that restrictions will be lifted."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) confirmed businesses and services may switch between requiring My Vaccine Passes and not requiring them.
"They will need to clean the premise/space between the two groups, and ensure they follow the appropriate rules relating to the use of My Vaccine Passes or not requiring My Vaccine Passes.
"They must clearly communicate with their staff and customers about what settings they are operating under."
A Covid-19 Group spokesperson said the new rules would be allowed to settle in before enforcement was carried out.
The spokesperson said everyone was encouraged to follow the new rules as the transition to the Covid-19 Protection Framework took place. This would ensure everyone was kept safe and businesses were able to remain open and operational.
"There will be a graduated enforcement model in place to support business compliance, with an emphasis on education first as businesses work out how best to implement new requirements.
"Police is working with partner agencies to establish a compliance framework which will outline the most appropriate agency to respond.
"Individuals and companies found not to be complying with the traffic lights risk breaching Covid-19 orders and could face enforcement action under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.
"The online reporting form and 105 phone number remain available for people to report potential breaches. Where people believe their safety is at risk, please call 111.
"WorkSafe NZ also have the authority to ensure businesses are complying with obligations."
The word on the street
What do the people in Whangārei think of the traffic light system?
How is life living with My Vaccine Pass?
Is the system working fine and do they feel safer now?
Northern Advocate reporter Avina Vidyadharan with photographer Tanya White hit the main streets of Whangārei to see what people had to say.
Melaney Claasen and Tailah Brooks: It is a pretty smooth system, but still needs work to be done. The vaccine pass website kept crashing. We are glad businesses are using it, we feel safer.
Kenny Kerr and Keith Walsh: My Vaccine Pass is straightforward. Everyone's got enough time to get vaccinated and it is for our own safety. You are going to find problems in it if you go looking for problems, so far it hasn't caused us any disrespect.
Sandra Moorhead: The traffic light system is simple. Hopefully, it will help drive up the vaccination rates in Northland, we are really behind the rest of the country. The borders need to open, I've got a lot of things to get done.
Matthew Young and Kate Soufflot: As long as you have got the pass, you are free to go anywhere. We are double vaccinated and the pass makes it much easier to let the businesses know it. It is just one more thing on the checklist, along with scanning and face masks.