Unvaccinated Mid Canterbury youth will be able to enter vaccine mandated council facilities like EA Networks Centre, Ashburton Public Library, Ashburton Art Gallery and Ashburton Museum for school activities when expected new legislation kicks in this week.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins stated last month that while he encouraged children who were eligible to be vaccinated, those who have not been vaccinated could not be deterred from accessing education and all of its activities as part of its Education Outside The Classroom (EOTC) legislation.
Councils around the country sought clarification from Sport NZ and the Department of Internal Affairs which said it could now be illegal for venues to continue requiring vaccination mandates for children when they were engaged in school activities outside the classroom.
Once legislation is passed councils will not be able to apply vaccine mandate policies to those children.
Ashburton District Council chief executive Hamish Riach said as he understood it, all activities classified as EOTC mean the participants are deemed to have a vaccine pass, and are therefore eligible to attend facilities with a pass requirement for entry, regardless if they actually have the pass or not.
“Essentially, all students will be able to attend our facilities as part of Education Outside the Classroom activities regardless of their vaccination status.”
Council did not have to consider letting unvaccinated children in as part of the EOTC programme because they were entitled by the law to enter.
“We will, of course, make this change and make the kids welcome in response to the alteration to the rules we work under,” Mr Riach said.
School Sport NZ made it a requirement that all school sport participants be fully vaccinated from December 3 last year.
The red light of the Covid Protection Framework meant the end of sports events of more than 25 people without vaccine passes.
Exemptions for school activities meant unvaccinated students could play sport or do other activities during school hours, but the common understanding of the rules was once the end-of-day bell rang, the exemptions no longer applied and regular red light rules applied.
The exemption to regulations is only likely to apply to activities offered by a registered school, so extra-curricular sport run by clubs will not be covered.
-By Mick Jensen