The Minister of Local Government is sending a strong message that everyone who can get vaccinated should – and says there should be no exception even for mayors.
Nanaia Mahuta’s comments come as Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie remains adamant she will not be getting the Pfizer vaccine.
Since speaking out about her decision last week, Goudie claimed she had received more than 3000 responses and 90 per cent of them were supportive.
“This is my personal choice. Council has no authority for this and this is my personal business. Nobody else has the right to tell me how to deal with my personal business.”
Goudie said she is not anti-vax, but favoured the Novavax vaccine over the Pfizer one.
However, Mahuta encouraged everyone who was eligible to get vaccinated regardless of their position.
“There is no exception if we want to save lives.”
The Government had been working hard to ensure that our health response offers as much protection from the serious consequence of contracting coronavirus and vaccinations were a key part of this response, she said.
However, Mahuta said her powers were limited under local government legislation and councils were accountable to their communities for their actions and decisions rather than to ministers.
Local Government New Zealand is also “wholeheartedly” supporting the vaccine drive for both councils and the community and has warned unvaccinated individuals including mayors could be shut out of council offices if the chief executive deemed they were a health and safety risk to others.
LGNZ president Stuart Crosby said anecdotally there had been huge receptiveness from its members to vaccines, but under the law a mayor cannot be forced to resign except in circumstance that rendered the elected member unable to do their job. Refusal to get vaccinated would not fall under this category.
“However, we’d expect that a mayor in this position wouldn’t want to put their community at risk and would take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of others.”
With the Government last week mandating vaccines for the education and healthcare sectors, some mayors have questioned whether this could extend to local government and if only those vaccinated would be allowed into council’s chambers.
Crosby said it was a “complicated area of law” that was broader than just elected members, given that councils have interactions with the public at multiple levels and LGNZwas in the process of getting its own legal advice to get a clearer picture of the obligations on councils.
And Goudie who has asked people to respect her personal choice is not the only elected member around the country dragging their heels over getting vaccinated.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Russ Rimmington did not think Goudie would be the only elected member not getting vaccinated and said he was “pretty certain” there were some people on his council with strong views who would not get vaccinated.
Rimmington, who has been double jabbed for some time, had asked democracy staff to compile a list, but was not sure if that had been done yet.
He called on LGNZ to provide strong guidance around this and did not think it could get to the point where unvaccinated people could be shut out of the council chambers, but said it would be an interesting debate.
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