$20,000 cost for council vaccine pass security

    Armourguard security officer Theresa scans Angus Dobbie's vaccination pass at the Invercargill Library.

    INVERCARGILL ratepayers have been paying $20,000 a month for security as part of the city council’s vaccine passport requirements.

    Invercargill city councillors voted in December to make vaccine passes mandatory for those entering council public pools, libraries, the museum and council chambers.

    That decision has come with associated costs for extra security.

    The decision was made only days after council chief executive Clare Hadley told the Otago Daily Times it had ‘‘undertaken a considerable risk assessment across its facilities’’ and
    would not be introducing vaccination passports.

    The council would, however, review the situation as information came to hand.

    Two public submissions, made by Dr Sophie Febery and nurse Nikki Harrison, appealed to councillors to keep all council facilities open for everyone.

    Ms Harrison said in her presentation it was important councillors ‘‘consider responsibility for all aspects of health and wellbeing, not only one narrow sliver’’.

    ‘‘Forcing segregation on to individuals when it was not justified and doesn’t improve safety outcomes only enforces the fracturing of society and encourages divisive attitudes.’’

    Councillor and performance, policy and partnership committee chairman Darren Ludlow said it was important for the council to continue to be ‘‘nimble and respond where the
    situation changes’’.

    ‘‘We are being asked to provide leadership. The one thing I don’t want to do is impose on people’s democratic rights to participate in democracy and to come in and be able to do the normal business with council which we had to [previously] suspend.

    ‘‘We held off on allowing rates payments to be made for a while during the last lockdown.’’

    He felt it was imperative service centres and council chambers remained open to all.

    After a three-hour debate, a decision was made, although not unanimously as Cr Ian Pottinger voted against a mandatory requirement for vaccine passes to access the city’s library. However, councillors voted unanimously that access to the pool and museum facilities would require passports.

    Invercargill City Council group manager of leisure and recreation Steve Gibling said while the cost of security for the past month was an estimated $20,000, that included some statutory days which inflated the total cost.

    The additional operating costs were being paid for through each of the facilities’ operational budgets, but ‘‘operational efficiencies’’ were being sought.

    ‘‘No direct cost cuts have been undertaken as a result of having security present,’’ he said.

    Not all of the Invercargill public have agreed with the council’s decision.

    Police have been involved with five incidents since the mandatory passports were introduced: three at the council administration building, one at the library and one at He Waka Tuia.

    Council members voted in favour of keeping the council’s administration open to all, but security had also been added to this area but did not require the public to produce vaccination passports.

    Mr Gibling said the council understood it was ‘‘a challenging time for our community’’.

    ‘‘In order to best serve our people we have put in place contracted staff who are trained in dealing with situations where there may be extra pressure or tension.

    ‘‘Unfortunately, we have been compelled to provide this support and assurance following some challenging experiences with members of our community.

    ‘‘As with all matters relating to the pandemic, council will keep arrangement under constant review.’’