Northland police have hit a major milestone with more than 90 per cent of frontline officers partially vaccinated ahead of next month's mandate deadline.
However, concerns remain about where any potential staff losses will occur within the region given 14 of the 19 police stations in Northland are manned by three or fewer police.
All police constabulary staff, authorised officers and recruits will need to have had their first Covid vaccination by January 17 and their second shot by March 1 to remain employed.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the close contact nature of their work meant vaccination was the "only control" to "mitigate the safety risk in those situations".
The Advocate can reveal 449 Northland police staff fall within the vaccine mandate, of which it is believed about 410 are constabulary staff and the remainder authorised officers.
Overall, 10,200 constabulary officers are reportedly impacted nationwide based on figures cited in the NZ Police's 2020/21 annual report.
Acting Northland District Commander Acting Superintendent Justin Rogers revealed 91 per cent of the region's constabulary staff are partially vaccinated, and 87.9 per cent double dosed.
Nationally, 94.3 per cent have had their first jab and 90.3 per cent are fully vaccinated as of December 21.
For Northland, it means about 50 frontline officers are still classed as unvaccinated.
They form roughly 8 per cent of the 580 constabulary staff across the country yet to receive their first jab or officially declare their vaccination status.
Rogers felt it was inappropriate to speculate about how many of Northland's unvaccinated officers may seek out the first dose by the mandate deadline.
He said the organisation recognised people held varied perspectives about vaccination and that staff may need time to consider their options.
"We don't want to lose anyone from the organisation as a result of the new mandate. We are working with staff covered by the mandate to encourage them to get vaccinated.
"As an organisation, we support vaccination because it aligns with our goal that our people and communities are safe and feel safe," Rogers said.
Despite the region looking like it will avoid a mass exodus of unvaccinated frontline officers, there are worries gaps may appear in areas with small numbers of police.
In response to part of the Advocate's Official Information Act request, the New Zealand Police withheld details about which Northland police stations had a proportion of unvaccinated staff.
Their decision was in order to protect people's privacy because 14 of the region's 19 stations are manned by fewer than five police – most of which are in the Far North.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said vaccination data "only told half of the story".
"Where are these individuals going to be? You take a few out of Auckland and it might make a difference but if you take a few out of Kaikohe or Kaitaia it can make a considerable difference."
He said smaller communities couldn't afford to lose one or two officers.
"It puts more pressure on those who remain without a doubt.
"The reality is police are struggling as it is to meet calls for service. Family harm, mental health – police struggle to meet the demand for that already."
On average, Northland police carry out about 26 family harm investigations a day on top of about five mental health callouts.
Cahill said it would be a long haul to replace any experienced losses - especially in the Far North which struggled to entice new recruits.
"Policing is a job you learn by experience. So even if you do get a job out of college it does take around three years until you're actually operating at full capacity.
"And policing in the Far North has its challenges and it's not for everyone so it's difficult to replace.
"That's why we would be very concerned if we lost people from the likes of Kaitaia or Kaikohe. We need to understand how this is going to unfold," he said.
However, that won't become clear until the deadline passes as police are currently unable to cross-match their data with health data.
But Cahill remained optimistic.
"I see no reason why police would be any different than other industries – such as health and education – where the numbers of unvaccinated staff drop to around 1 to 1.5 per cent."
He said the current rates reflected an issue they'd discovered where some police had not yet reported they were in fact vaccinated.
"My understanding is that police are approaching every individual to try and ascertain what the situation is and to help them through the process if they need more information."
Others Cahill had spoken to either had a genuine issue around the Pfizer vaccine or did not want to be told what to do.
The second was "a big principle to give up a career on", Cahill said.
"We just like to think as the deadline gets closer, people will make a different choice as the reality of actually losing their jobs sinks in."