An Auckland gym not using vaccine passes is staying open despite a police warning over the weekend.
Owners of Oliver MMA HQ in New Lynn, Steve and Krissy Oliver, say they are breaking the law but will remain open for their community and families who have been turned away elsewhere because of the vaccine mandate.
"We are being approached on a daily basis by people who are experiencing extreme mental health distress," Steve Oliver said.
"We care about them and have put in extra measures to ensure that we are helping them to get the right support and to be there for them."
Under the new traffic light system that came into play last Friday, gyms, hairdressers and other close contact businesses are required to check vaccine passes and only vaccinated people can enter.
Gym and hair salon staff along with hospitality and events workers also need to be vaccinated.
At least one other Auckland business, Lone Star restaurant also in New Lynn, has opposed the mandate, posting a job advertisement last month inviting unvaccinated workers to apply for bar and restaurant roles. The ad was later taken down.
Oliver said police visited the gym on Friday and again on Sunday, and they were told their case will be referred to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
"When I asked, could I admit members to my gym without a vaccination passport, all they needed to do was show a negative Covid test? And they said no," he told the Herald.
Police did not confirm the gym visit for privacy reasons. A spokesperson said police have received "a small number" of reports about businesses flouting vaccine pass requirements on the first weekend of the traffic light system.
"In terms of policing the new traffic light system, police have focused on providing an education-first response when supporting business owners to understand and adjust to the new rules and requirements in place," the spokesperson said.
Police will liaise with MBIE and WorkSafe on complaints about businesses that do not comply, he added.
Oliver's wife Krissy said the gym has put in place additional measures like health and temperature checks at the door, and people are required to scan or sign in.
"If someone says they're sick, [I'll say to them] 'Go home. I need you to take a test, tell me when that test comes back.'" she said. "I've got a list of everyone that's in the building, I'm going to tell them to all go get a test."
She says the gym's four permanent staff including the owners will go for weekly Covid tests on Mondays.
She believes most of the gym's members are vaccinated, and say the family are not "anti-vax". The couple and their five children had received all their scheduled vaccinations up until the Covid-19 vaccine.
"We're pro-choice. We're probably going to get the vaccine in the future, we're just waiting for it to be safe, with long-term trials done," she said. Her elderly parents and most of her siblings are double-jabbed.
"And we don't think the gym is so dangerous that we shouldn't allow a sector of our community to partake."
"We've only been open since Friday. We've had four different groups of parents come through in tears, saying, 'My kids have been turned away from rugby, tag, swimming ...' Another lady said, 'My kid is getting bullied at school because they're not vaccinated.'
"So we do all of the contact tracing, testing, health checks, we bring them in for an hour. We don't know what any of these kids' lives are like, but we make that the best hour of their day.
"The kids are coming in broken, they're coming in crying. Their parents are in the carpark crying when they see their kid inside smiling. This has never happened before. It's just crazy."
She said the gym is not practising social distancing inside. "We try and keep it as normal as possible, we don't think it's healthy for people mentally to be freaking out and not touching each other and staying away."
"We are cleaning and we are sanitising every night with hospital-grade sanitation."
With Auckland at traffic light red, gyms can open for up to 100 people with vaccine passes.
The couple say they were just breaking even before lockdown hit. Their rent was raised to $13,000 a month at the start of that and they are "slowly going broke".
"I could open my doors, tell everyone to get vaccinated and go ahead and make some good money," Steve said. He is not sleeping well and his mother is in hospital with stage 4 cancer.
"I will admit, a lot of my members have had [the vaccine]. But what about those members who haven't?
"Do I kick them out? Let them know they aren't welcome in the family anymore and they need to go find somewhere else to forge relationships ? Is that how family works?"
Industries with vaccination mandates include
• Border and managed isolation and quarantine workers
• Health and disability workers
• Prison workers
• Hospitality, events, close contact businesses and gyms
• Education sector workers
• On-site tertiary education
• New Zealand Police
• New Zealand Defence Force