Category Archives: Local body politics

Building a resilient future

Sometimes people don’t need more facts. What they need is a plan.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that we face multiple challenges in the world today – environmental, economic, political and social. Climate change is far from the only problem, but it is probably the most significant, because it makes everything else much worse. Many of us have been talking about this for decades, and slowly gaining traction, but it wasn’t another rigorous, scientifically conservative, well referenced report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that seems to have tipped the balance. It has taken a cyclone of unprecedented scale to bring home the real cost of our, and the world’s, inaction.

The science tells us that we still have a brief window to stop runaway climate change. That means we can still prevent the sort of feedback loops that would probably bring an end to homo sapiens 10,000 year experiment with civilisation. If they kick in, we just won’t have the abundance of resources, including the food surplus, to make cities work.

So it give me great comfort to know that the window still exists. That’s a helpful fact. Now what we need is a plan.

That has been my main focus since first being elected to Whakatāne District Council in 2016. In that first term the council agreed a set of principles to govern how we respond to climate change. We asked the people of Whakatāne for feedbaack, and we got strong support. In my second term on council we agreed a set of strategies, targets and action plans. Again these got strong support. The result has been both reduced council carbon emissions and substantial work on adapting to climate change. Last year we agreed on a reset of those strategies – a shifting of gears. You can expect to have your say as part of that work.

I need to add here that I didn’t do that work by myself. The success of the programe is really down to the highly talented staff that work and have worked at WDC. What I provided was the political leadership that allowed staff to do their jobs well.

The next phase of the climate change work needs to engage our communities better. If we have learned anything from the array of disasters that Whakatāne District and other areas have experienced, it’s the need for resilience in the face of an uncertain future. At the heart of resilience is community.

National and regional agencies, and the council, are important in terms of emergency response and long term recovery, but it is our willingness to look after each other that is the most critical. It is when we check on the neighbours because we know they may need a little help, or get stuck in where we see the need, that we see the best of us. Great examples are the Community Emergency Response Teams in action, or springing up, in places like Edgecumbe, Matatā, Waiohau, Thornton, Galatea / Murupara, Awatapu and Manawahe. Marae, who fling open their doors to become critical parts of the emergency response infrastructure, are another. It is a reminder of how blessed we are in the Eastern Bay to live in communities where people look out for each other.

Adapting to climate change isn’t just about disaster response. Council’s job is to make sure our infrastructure is both robust (strong) and resilient (able to spring back when parts of the system fail), but that’s just one part of the story. Given the impacts that Cyclone Gabrielle is already having on things like food supplies, how do we build a more resilient economy in the Eastern Bay? It’s not just about food sovereignty – we need to build strong local economies, that cycle resources (including money) around and around the community as many times as possible so as to extract maximum value.

WDC Council members were privileged recently to hear from Jacob Kajavala of Industrial Symbiosis Kawerau about the work to build synergies across businesses in Kawerau (and increasingly beyond). They work with workforce development training, recruitment and employment, and growing industry and opportunity. These kinds of collaborations across local businesses have great potential to build a vibrant local business ecosystem which provides some buffer from international economic shocks because they are grounded in strong and enduring relationships.This could be a building block towards a true circular economy, where upcycling applies to resource flows (eg the waste from one enterprise becomes the feedstock for another) people flows and financial flows.

It’s just one example of how the Eastern Bay of Plenty has the ingredients we need to build a strong, resilient, interconnected, prosperous and ecologically grounded sub-region. We just need a positive vision and leadership.

First published in the WhakatāneBeacon 8/3/23

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Representation to the Justice Committee of Parliament Inquiry into the Local Elections 2022

Greetings to the committee.

I request that you accept this as a late contribution. I had intended to send it before the deadline of 14 February but my internet has been down due to Cyclone Gabrielle.

I wish to make an oral presentation.

INTRODUCTION

My name is Nandor Tanczos. I am a third term councillor on the Whakatāne District Council and an accredited RMA commissioner. I was a Member of Parliament from 1999 to 2008 and sat on the Justice and Electoral Committee. I was also active during the committee stage of the passage of the Local Government Act 2002, although I did not sit on the Local Government committee. I mention these simply to establish my familiarity with local goverment legislation and practice, including electoral matters

I previously wrote to the committee in anticipation of this inquiry. Some of what I write below will have already been covered by that letter, but I wish to ensure that my comments are formally considered during this process. I thank you for the opportunity to have my say.

THE 2022 LOCAL ELECTION – THE PROBLEMS

As you will be aware, this years election had a number of significant problems with the administration of the vote. While our council endeavoured to make voting as accessible as possible by providing drive-in voting and taking mobile units out to some of our more remote communities, these efforts were greatly undermined by broader problems at (it seems) a nation level. Specifically two issues loom largest.

The first was the large numbers of people who didn’t receive their voting papers in time, or at all. While this has been a problem in the past, my understanding is that it has been relatively minor until now. Last year the scale of it seems unusual – and entirely unacceptable.

I have been contacted by local electors who received voting papers in the past at the same address, or who updated their details on the electoral roll well before the cut-off date in August, but who did not receive their voting papers for this election. I heard from families where the parents received papers but their (voting age) children did not, or vice versa. I heard from people who updated their address in time but whose papers still went to their old address, or sometimes to both. I also heard from a number of people who received their papers in the last few days prior to election day, who either posted their papers (and almost certainly didn’t have them counted because they arrived too late) or thought it was too late to vote. This included, but was not restricted to, overseas voters.

Of course all these people could make a special vote (if they did not receive their papers) or take their papers to a ballot box (if they arrived late, and there was one available in their community). The reality is that many people found it hard to understand what they needed to do in such circumstances. As a candidate I found myself advising people often on how to vote when this should have been clear to them. In addition, some people did not even realise that they hadn’t received papers until voting was closed.

All of this is a disincentive to vote, in an election that already suffers low turn-out. Given the lack of understanding about local electoral processes generally among the general public, I have no doubt that this suppressed the vote, in particular among those demographics already least likely to participate. Simply put, the harder and more complicated we make it, the less likely people are to vote, especially people not used to voting.

The second issue relates to the broader question of voting method and system. This includes whether postal voting is a method fit for purpose in the 21st century, and whether First Past the Post voting, both for Mayor and for ward councillors, delivers genuine democracy.

Many young voters have probably never posted a letter in their lives, and even people who grew up using postal services, such as myself, struggle to identify where a post box is these days. Snail mail is no longer the universal service it was. I am aware that councils have the ability to change the voting method under section 36 of the Local Electoral Act but in my observation, representation reviews by councils rarely touch on this question and many councillors would be unaware this power exists, or what the resource implications for the organisation would be. Some discussion of this by the Justice Committee, taking a broad national approach, would be helpful. I am aware that this latter question was briefly canvassed in your previous report but I am of the opinion that it could do with a more thorough consideration than you gave it at that time.

On the voting system, local elections are rife with examples of how candidates splitting the vote can lead to the election of people with strong negative ratings among the majority of voters. Especially smaller councils are often not well equipped to have a proper evidence based discussion on the pros and cons of moving to a Single Transferable Voting system and it would be helpful if the committee could provide some research basis and political commentary to assist.

OTHER MATTERS

The regular inquiry into local elections is an important function of this committee and used to its potential, I think it provides an opportunity to help address the some of the systemic disincentives to voting. My request above that you give a more detailed consideration of voting method and system is made in that vein. Perhaps even more importantly, I think it would be helpful to see your conclusions more widely disseminated. At the least, your report could be emailed to all elected councillors so that they are aware of your findings. My observation is that many elected councillors are not even aware that a review of local elections by your committee takes place on a regular basis, nor are they made aware of your conclusions. Given the importance of that work, wider appreciation of it (especially during representation reviews by councils) can only enhance local democracy.

Along similar lines, I think it would be helpful if elected councillors, or even all candidates in local elections, were emailed notification of your inquiry when it is initiated. Again most councillors would not be aware that the inquiry is taking place and that submissions are open, and many would have valuable insights into the process. In fact I was disappointed to not receive direct notification myself of this inquiry from the committee, given that I had already written to the clerk and chair to request that it be initiated promptly following the election.

Lastly, I support a voting age of 16 for local and central government elections. I think it will improve voting quality, because it will lead to near universal enrolment through schools and associated civics education.

CONCLUSION

In summary I am writing to ask you to give attention to three things:

  • The causes of, and solutions to, large numbers of people not receiving their voting papers in time to vote.
  • The question of postal voting in general, whether it is appropriate as a voting method and what alternatives might be preferable.
  • What the evidence tells us about the benefits and disadvantages of STV voting vis a vis FPP
  • The advantages of lowering the voting age to 16.
  • How your report can be more widely promoted, in particular among elected councillors and candidates, both in terms to eliciting submissions and also to disseminate your findings more widely.

I thank you for your time. Please contact me at this email if anything I have written needs clarification.

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WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

One of the best available accounts of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi is given by William Colenso, who was there at the time and a fluent speaker of Māori.

Colenso describes Governor Hobson standing to explain the purpose of the proposed treaty. The missionary Henry Williams translated. Hobson started by saying that the Queen of England wished to do right by the Native people of New Zealand.

But as the law of England gives no civil powers to Her Majesty out of her dominions, her efforts to do you good will be futile unless you consent…

The people of Great Britain are, thank God! free; and, as long as they do not transgress the laws they can go where they please… You have sold them lands here and encouraged them to come here. Her Majesty, always ready to protect her subjects, is also always ready to restrain them.
Her Majesty the Queen asks you to sign this treaty, and to give her that power which shall enable her to restrain them.”

In case you missed it, he is saying ‘to restrain THEM’, the English who had come here, who were running amuck in Kororāreka (Russell) and the like.

He then read out the treaty in Māori, which affirmed the right of hapu to their tino rangatiratanga – their own authority. It granted the rights of British Citizens to the Māori people, and protected the rights of different faiths (including Māori spiritual practises). And it provided for the Crown to exercise ‘kawanatanga’ – the ability to pass laws to restrain their own people.

The often repeated claim that Māori ceded their sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi is simply incorrect. The Māori language translation that was read out, and that Hobson and almost all the rangatira signed, makes no mention of cedeing sovereignty. It is that version that takes precedence under the international legal principle of contra preferentum.

It seems obvious really. Why would they give up their right to rule themselves? They outnumbered the British many times over. They did not need to come under the authority of Queen Victoria to reap the benefits of technology transfer. Māori were already doing very well, adopting European ways of doing things where it suited them and keeping their own where it didn’t. Māori food growers fed Auckland, Māori textiles and timber filled the holds of trading ships and Maōri owned fleets were sailing to Australia and the USA to do commerce.

Some people have said that colonisation benefitted Māori. It is hard to see how. Māori were already enjoying the fruits of this rich cultural exchange. How could colonisation – war, murder, rape, the theft of land and resources, the attempted destruction of culture and traditional political organisation – add anything positive to that?

Today more people are becoming aware of that history. There is no reason for anyone today to feel guilty about it, nor would guilt serve any useful purpose. Neither can we return to 1840, even if we wished to. What we can do is reflect on what kind of nation we are today, and what we wish to be. How might our political-economic system serve us ALL better, empowering ordinary people over corporate power? How might it reflect more of the generosity of spirit that characterised that momentous event at Waitangi (and around the country – it wasn’t until 16 July that the Treaty was signed at Pōhaturoa by rangatira of Ngāti Pūkeko and Ngāti Awa).


There is a lot of talk about ‘co-governance’ at the moment, for example in 3 waters. The reality is that while Iwi Māori do get input into some very high level statements and expectations, the water services entities will be governed by independent boards. Iwi will have a say on the make up of the panel that decides who will sit on those boards, but that is as close as they get to the board table. Having a Māori world view represented in setting the DNA of those entities , though, will benefit us all. It doesn’t deserve the racist backlash that we’ve seen.

Perhaps in some ways more interesting is what happens at a local level. Local Government reform is a chance to examine the role of local councils in relation to Tangata Whenua, and to more clearly define the boundaries between them. Constitutional reform, to recognise the mana of Tangata Whenua and at the same time to provide an inherent right for Local Government and local decision-making, would be a step forward in my opinion. I would like to see local government legislation better provide for the resource management practises that Māori developed over centuries and that were attuned to the needs of specific catchments, ecosystems, climatic zones. I would like to see the intergenerational aspirations and values of a Tangata Whenua worldview embedded into council long-term planning frameworks. And I would like to see the relationship between local authorities and Tangata Whenua organisations (both post settlement entities and hapū) clarified and improved.

We shouldn’t be frightened of these discussions. This is an exciting opportunity to think about what it means to live in Aotearoa today. We all want the best for our descendants, and those descendants are increasingly Māori AND Pākeha, and chosing to honour their whole whakapapa. Let us mold our democracy to be something unique in the world, something that brings together the best of the Westminster adversarial system of representative majoritarianism with the best of Indigenous practise and decision-making. A system grounded in the reality of living in Aotearoa New Zealand.


First published in the Whakatāne Beacon 3/2/23

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Nandor Tanczos calls for parliamentary inquiry into LG voting paper shambles

Widespread reports of people not receiving their voting packs in time for the local government election have led Whakatāne District Councillor Nandor Tanczos to call for an inquiry into the shambles.

“I heard multiple accounts of registered voters not receiving their voting papers in time for the election” said Nandor.

“Some households received papers for a couple of people while others in the family missed out. Some people got their papers the day before close of voting, way to late to post their votes in. People who updated their details on-line still had papers go to the wrong address.

“Council staff in Whakatāne did their best to take up the slack, with a drive in voting booth on the day and staff at the service centres trained to assist with special voting, but NZ Post let the country down.

“Postal voting is a challenge for many people as it is, with a lack of post boxes and an unreliable service, especially in rural areas. For people to not even get their voting papers is completely unacceptable”.

“Parliament needs to take this extremely seriously. Your right to vote shouldn’t be dependent on random chance, whether the papers turned up or not. There needs to be a full examination as to why this was allowed to happen, and what will be done to make sure it is different next time” said Nandor.

“Maybe postal voting has done its dash and we need to do local government elections differently”.

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3 waters reform – an update

District councillors have been getting a lot of campaign emails recently about the Government’s 3 Waters reforms. They come with no reply addresses, but they deserve a response. This is my open reply to those emails, and update for the community on 3 Waters reforms.

I’ve written about this before but as a quick reminder, the 3 Waters are: drinking water, waste water (mostly sewage) and storm water (mostly rain run-off). It’s not about who owns the water itself or water quality, but rather who controls the pipes, pumps and drains that moves it all around and treats it.

Local councils around the country have generally not invested what they should have in water infrastructure over the decades and things are starting to get desperate. I guess they hoped the Government would bail them out. This reform is the Government’s response. It basically brings control of all council owned water infrastructure across the country under 4 super-sized water service providers. We will be part of one that covers most of the middle North Island.

These will be owned by local councils and run by independent boards. Like councils, tangata whenua get some high level representation, but it’s limited. The main idea is that economies of scale will get the much needed work done cheaper. There is some debate about how big those saving might be, but there will almost certainly be some. It also gets cheaper loans and big urban centres will cross-subsidise smaller populations like ours.

It’s important to remember that these changes are driven by Wellington. For people sending emails to local councillors, it would be more effective to send them to the Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, since she actually gets to decide. We do not.

Which is what Whakatāne District Council did. We sent a letter to the Minister, and met with her on zoom. We made very detailed comments about what we saw was wrong with the reforms. These included concerns about the over-all approach, the governance arrangements, the lack of clarity about key aspects and the lack of say for our communities. I wrote a detailed article about this in the Beacon a few months ago. We were unanimous that we were against the proposals.

I want to emphasise this because there is some misinformation being put about. We were unanimous that we opposed the reforms. We did disagree on whether to join ‘Communities 4 Local Democracy’, a break-away group of councils, but that was just about whether it would be an effective advocate for Whakatāne’s interests. I still don’t think they have been, but we did end up joining them.

Almost everyone agrees some reform is needed though. It’s really about what that should look like. Local Government has not done a good job with water in most of the country. Recent letters to The Beacon about rates have highlighted the issue. Some people already find it hard to pay their rates bill, and so councillors are twitchy about putting rates up more than they need to. The true cost of that is underinvestment in water and other infrastructure.

We all hate rates rises, but good water infrastructure is expensive and it has to be paid for. Some people point to the Civic Centre Earthquake Strengthening, or the Commercial Boat Harbour development as places to save money, but both of these have very little impact on rates. I’ll write another piece about why and also why they are both so important. What is driving rates rises now is the need to catch up on investment in water infrastructure. Whakatāne is actually quite well placed compared to many councils, especially when it comes to drinking water, but the bill is still eye-watering. So I can see why the Government wants to take investment decisions out of the hands of politicians. The problem, of course, is that means less local accountability.

Our council has made our objections clear and specific, as have others. The Government actually listened to some of those and while they remain committed to the overall reform, especially the 4 big water service providers, they have made quite a few changes. There will be a review after 5 years. There will now be a subregional voice and consumer advocates embedded in the structure. They’ve made it harder to privatise by requiring a unanimous vote of all shareholding councils to do so. To name a few.

In response to National’s promise to roll back the reforms if they win the next election, it will now require a 75% majority of Parliament to do so. This will be almost impossible to achieve. So regardless of our opposition, the reforms will go ahead and they will be locked in. Labour has burned too much political capital already to turn back, they have introduced the bill to Parliament, and they have the votes. As a council our responsibility now is to make sure our communities are not disadvantaged. We are a small fish in the water services pond. By developing our infrastructure investment plans to the point where they can easily be picked up by the new entity, we can influence the work programme and make sure that the needs of our communities don’t slip to the back of the queue.

Critical projects like Matatā waste water, Murupara waste water, finding new sources for our drinking water supplies, are vital to the well-being of our communities. It’s a big program of work to get them ready to hand over to the new provider, but doing it well means our communities don’t lose out to the bigger urban centres. And this is just the first stage of a programme of local government reform. We need to keep communicating as clearly as we can about these big, complex issues. Being smart, adaptable, solution focussed and strategic is going to be important for the council for the foreseeable future.

Published in the Whakatane Beacon. 10/6/22

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NAVIGATING IN A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY

One of the things I have been talking about since being on council is the need for a more strategic approach. I mean a couple of things by this. First, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked by funding opportunities. Whakatāne District Council is good at prying money out of government hands but it has a cost. We cannot afford to spend time and energy on things that don’t take us where we are trying to go. We need to clearly define, with our communities, what our priorities are, and only seek funding for things that fit those priorities.
Secondly, we live in a time of great uncertainty. Perhaps all generations do, but the pace of change seems to be speeding up. We face real challenges with climate change and resource depletion. There is growing instability from worsening poverty and inequality. Then we have Covid, with all its implications. We need to think strategically about how to face an uncertain future and what our communities need if we want to thrive in a changing world.
Because thrive we can. Our district has huge positives, from fertile soils, to flowing waters, to a rich cultural tapestry, to creative and resilient peoples, to a population willing and able to help itself. The question for council is how we can help rather than hinder those qualities.
In 2020 and 2021 I facilitated a series of workshops with councillors to identify a high level vision and some key priorities. We thought a lot about council’s role, because it is a large organisation that does lots of different things, from planning and consent processing, to running swimming pools, to building roads, to keeping the taps flowing. The purpose of all of that is to enhance the well-being of our communities. We summed that up with the words MORE LIFE IN LIFE – working together to make living better for our communities, now and in the future. This has always been a place of abundance. By working together we can ensure that our descendants enjoy a plentiful future.

To do this we need strong, connected, interdependent, diverse communities. The resilience of our local communities is obvious with every natural disaster, but different communities have different characteristics. This includes real poverty in some, as a result of raupatu and nearly 40 years of neo-liberalism. We need to serve all communities in ways that are relevant for them. We can support connectedness through spatial planning, affordable housing development, good infrastructure, by supporting events and clubs that bring people together, and through civic engagement and fair representation. Interdependence comes out of this connectedness, with the recognition that we are in it together. He waka eke noa.
Council needs to be much better at working constructively and collaboratively with whānau, hapū and iwi. Mana whenua were here as political entities long before our council and they will continue to be here long after it. They are wrapped up in the very identity of half of our population. They control significant resources and they have economic, social and cultural aspirations for their people and the wider district. They act as kaitiaki of their ancestral areas, for the good of all, and they have statutory recognition in a number of Acts of Parliament. Recognising their mana is simply acknowledging those facts.

Local government has a very poor history when it comes to acting against the interests of Māori. We need to repair a relationship that we have damaged. One thing is for sure – we can only truly thrive as a district if we are able to work together towards some shared aspirations.
To do this, and to ensure an abundant future for our descendants, we need to integrate nature into our decision-making. We have to do more than green-washing. This is both about specific programmes, such as the climate change initiatives I have written about before, and about how we design all our activities. As an example we are starting to look at how flood control drains can be rethought as habitat for native species, an example of biophilic design.

An economic system that supports rather than degrades nature is also possible, with a thriving circular economy. I have written about this before but basically a linear economy takes a resource, extracts it, uses it once and then throws it away. A circular economy keeps resources in circulation for as long as possible. It looks at the sustainability of the source of that resource, how it is used, how it is circulated within the economy, and at the end of life how it can be returned to nature in a beneficial way

But it’s not just about the materials. How do we keep money circulating in our local economy rather than draining out? How do we provide education that leads to well paid satisfying work so that our young people don’t need to move away? How well can we meet local needs when things like Covid disrupt supplies? As a large organisation Council is looking at how our procurement spending can better support a local circular economy. We have also been assisting local business planning during Covid and with government funded Kia Kaha and Provincial Growth Fund money.

All of these things are about having a council that is able to face the 21st century with a clear focus rather than reacting with confusion. Our vision and priorities were agreed unanimously by councillors last year, and now we are working on bringing them alive through the whole organisation. It takes time, but we have started.

(First published in the Whakatāne Beacon 28 Jan 2022)

Whakatāne District Council votes for vaccine pass for council facilities

Yesterday Whakatāne District Council voted 10 – 1 to require a vaccination pass to enter all Council facilities excluding parks, reserves, playgrounds, cemeteries, the Murupara outdoor pool, and public toilets that are not inside a Council facility. This sets out why I voted the way I did. It is not my speech word for word, more like a mash up of the 2 different times I spoke.

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I want to start by reminding us of the context of this discussion. NZ has had very low rates of covid infection to date. This has allowed us to keep fatalities low, as health services have been able to cope. This is very different from many other places where health services have been overwhelmed by covid cases.

This is now changing, and our national strategy is changing as well, as infections are increasing. I don’t envy Central Government decision-makers, who have to balance people’s civil and human rights, with the right to life, and their obligations to protect the community. I haven’t agreed with all their decisions, but I think we have to start from a basis that they are trying their best to balance those different needs. But it is difficult, and our very success has made NZers complacent. Add to that the misinformation that is circulating, often originating in overseas interests who want NZ to fail.

So we have to be very careful who we listen to. Councillor Silcock mentioned a doctor who has been talking about the rise of suicides in Auckland as a result of lockdown. I’d love to know where those figures come from because I’ve just looked up the latest report on suicide rates from the Chief Coroner and that is not true. Suicide rates have been down for the last two years. Those figures only go to June, but still cover a significant period of lockdown. Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Shaun Robinson has criticised speculation on increased suicides saying “We are aware of increased levels of distress, especially in Auckland, where lockdown is taking its toll on the wellbeing of so many people. But speculation that this will lead to increases in suicide is unfounded.”

I understand the concerns. At the start of this pandemic I was vaccine hesitant, but I have had to have a hard look at the science, at the peer reviewed studies and the advice of public health experts who have spent their lives trying to save lives. We councillors are not epidemiologists – none of us. As people in positions of responsibility should we take our advice from actual epidemiologists and public health experts, the vast majority of whom are in clear agreement, or should we just follow whatever we read on social media? Obviously we have to listen to the actual evidence, and the evidence is very clear.

Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you cannot get covid or transmit it.
Being vaccinated carries some risk of adverse side effects. But despite what you might think from social media algorithms, significant side effects are rare.

The risks from getting covid are much higher. There seems to be around 1 or 2 deaths per hundred covid cases – which is quite a lot of people if covid spreads significantly. Around 1 in 3 have serious long term side effects.

One in three.

Vaccine risks are very low compared to that.

Vaccinated people CAN get covid but unvaccinated people are much more likely to. Obviously that means they are much more likely to infect others. Being unvaccinated also means that people’s symptoms are likely to be far worse – they much more likely to have serious impacts or die. But that’s a risk people can decide for themselves. That’s got nothing to do with us as a council. What we DO need to pay attention to is the risk to others.

So when it comes to being vaccinated, people have a choice. But choices also have consequences. To use Councillor Luca’s analogy, people can choose to smoke tobacco, which increases their risks of all kinds of serious health issues, and that is their right. But they do not have a right to smoke inside, in places that put others at risk. In fact we have banned such behaviour as a country.

So we must always remember the purpose of any restrictions, which is not to punish people for their choices, but should only be to reduce significant risk to others. People who choose to not be vaccinated should not be given unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions. It’s worth recalling that government regulations say that you cannot be asked to provide your Vaccine Pass to access basic services, such as supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, public transport, pharmacies and essential health care.

I’ve had lots of emails in the last couple of days about how valued council services are – which is great to hear. We provide really important functions and facilities. But restrictions aren’t based on how much people value our services – they are based on what is the best way to keep our community safer.

So I support the amendment to exclude open spaces from vaccine passes, as the risk of transmission in those situations is much lower. I will move an amendment to explicitly exclude the Murupara Pool as well, as that is a predominantly outdoor facility with a low density of users. Additionally I would like us to state clearly that we are committed to maintaining our services for all members of the community, vaccinated and unvaccinated, by providing alternative means of access where this is practical.

But lets remember that if our staff do get infected, they are likely to spread it to a lot of people because most of our staff engage with many different people. We do not want council facilities to become super spreader locations. In addition as councillors we have legal and ethical obligations to our staff, to not put them at undue risk and to provide a safe working environment, as far as possible.

So Whakatāne is going into the new traffic light system at red. We have recent infections and low rates of vaccination compared to other parts of the country. This puts our health services capability, in particular our ICU beds, under threat. This is not just a concern for covid cases but for all those people that will have treatment delayed or cancelled if covid cases are taking up resources. So we need to do what we can to support reasonable public health measures in a time of pandemic.

So it seems self evident to me that we need to introduce a vaccination pass system. If we don’t, some of our facilities will have to close entirely. It seems unfair to deny access to all because a small number choose not to get vaccinated. It is also likely that many vaccinated people will avoid our facilities if we do not have a vaccination pass system in place. Again that seems like an unfair outcome.

Finally I’ll say that I am aware that some of our frontline staff are already getting abuse for trying to enforce the previous guidelines. I trust they will get the support they need to handle this kind of aggression, and I ask people who disagree with the decision we are making today to not take it out on staff. Talk to those of us who made the decision.

Thank you.

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