The current situation
A number of clubs and individuals have approached ONZ wanting to know our policy on mandatory vaccinations. The issue was thrust into the limelight with government’s recent announcements on compulsory vaccinations for parts of the education and health sectors.
Like all other National Sports Organsiations, ONZ relies on discussions between the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) and Sport New Zealand for sport-specific guidelines. These guidelines are then adapted by Orienteering NZ for our sport.
Currently Sport NZ acknowledges they often find themselves unable to give the clarity they would like and appreciate how immensely difficult it is to plan for the future right now. They are currently working with DPMC to understand the implications of the new traffic light system.
What we understand
Our DHB(s) get their eligible population 90% vaccinated and we move to a “traffic light” system whereby businesses can operate at all levels and supposedly lockdowns will become a thing of the past. This system comes with mandatory vaccinations for many business’s customers and employees. Government will pass new legislation to legalise this and it is our understanding that part of this and a simplified risk assessment process that will be used to determine if vaccinations will be required.
We also know that under levels green and orange sports events will be able to take place without number restrictions for events with all double vaccinated attendees. What we do not know is what restrictions will look like for events with non-vaccinated attendees.
The New Zealand Bill of rights stipulates that “Everyone has the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment”, something that will not change with the proposed legislation.
Currently organisations continue to have the right to restrict access to their premises/event based on dress code or what ever criteria they decide. This means that theoretically event organisers could make showing vaccination certificates an entry criteria to events before the government passes legislation.
What is potentially problematic for an organisation is the area of volunteers who are treated as “employees” in some areas of the law. If treated as employees, volunteers would be required to be consulted as part of any move to compulsory vaccination. Current practice would require a risk assessment to be completed as part of this process and it would have to be proved that failure to vaccinate would pose a high risk. Given no evidence of covid being transmitted outside, this may make it extremely difficult to mandate vaccination without a change of legislation. Current health orders do not extend to those involved with school-aged students in non-school activities like club orienteering.
Land owners have a right to decide that anyone using their land needs to vaccinated. This means that there is a strong likelihood that land access will become increasingly complicated for clubs wishing to run events including non vaccinated participants.
Questions are already being asked as to whether those around children too young to be vaccinated should be expected to be vaccinated themselves in the same way that Police Vetting is expected for many working with youth. It would be surprising if this was mandated by government, but it is highly conceivable that parents and organisations will be asking volunteers their immunisation status and potentially making decisions based on this information.
ONZ will be discussing this topic at their next Council meeting. We will be waiting for more information before we can provide the orienteering community with any guidelines.