Coronavirus and the Law
Gatherings, events and going into places
Are the mandates legal?
Yes, the mandates are completely legal.
The High Court has looked at the question of whether the mandates are legal. Mandates do limit people’s rights (such as the right to work or the right to go places). However, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act allows rights to be limited, if the limits are justified. The High Court has confirmed that limiting rights to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be justified.
The High Court also looked at how the rules were made. COVID-19 laws allow certain government officials to make COVID-19 orders. The High Court has confirmed that these orders are legal.
What is a vaccine pass and who can ask to see them?
Vaccine passes are documents issued by the Ministry of Health. You can only get a vaccine pass if you have been vaccinated or are exempt from being vaccinated.
You need a vaccine pass to go to some places and to participate in some activities.
You will need a vaccine pass if the place or activity has chosen to use vaccine passes. If they chose not to use vaccine passes, gathering limits and other restrictions will apply. To check the gathering limits for each traffic light setting, visit www.covid19.govt.nz/traffic-lights/covid-19-protection-framework
Some places and activities are not allowed to use vaccine passes. See next question.
Which businesses and activities are not allowed to ask for a vaccine pass?
You don’t need to show a vaccine pass for business or activities who provide services. Essential services that should never ask for a vaccination pass include:
- supermarkets, dairies and food banks
- petrol stations
- public transport services (except air travel)
- essential health services, like primary care services, specialist clinics, laboratories and imaging services, public and private hospitals, maternity care, hospice services, oral healthcare services, mental health care services, ambulances and emergency care;
- aged residential care services
- public housing, social housing and emergency housing
- out of school care and recreation
Schools and early childhood centres have special rules. You do not need a vaccine pass to attend class, pick up and drop off children, or meet with a teacher to discuss your child’s learning. However there may be times when the school or early childhood centres will require you to show your vaccine pass. For more information, see the below question, “Can I go to my child’s school if I am unvaccinated?”
Why can a business or activity ask for a vaccine pass?
There are two reasons why a person or business can ask you to show a vaccine pass:
- The business or activity is considered high risk by the government and has been put into the traffic light system.
- The business or activity has assessed itself as being high risk, and the person in charge has chosen to use the vaccine pass process to reduce risk.
Which businesses and activities might ask me for a vaccine pass?
The following places can ask for a vaccine pass if they chose to use them. This is because they are part of the traffic light system:
- Hospitality (for example, cafes, restaurants and bars)
- Large gatherings at home
- Other gatherings (for example, weddings, tangihanga, places of worship, marae and social sports)
- Indoor and outdoor events (for example, concerts and cinemas)
- Close-proximity businesses (for example, hairdressers and beauty salons)
- Outdoor community gatherings (for example, a community fair or parade)
- Tertiary education
Any other place or activity that assessed itself as high risk can also ask for vaccine passes. This could include pretty much any place or activity, such as community law centres, travel agents, social clubs, and community groups.
At this stage, it appears that most businesses, services, large scale gatherings and events will be opting to follow vaccine pass requirements.
When will vaccine passes be checked?
Business or activities using vaccine passes must check the passes of people on their premises, including workers.
It may be checked at the door, or when you are inside, for example seated at your table or at a counter. A business can look at your vaccine pass or use the NZ Pass Verifier App to verify it. They do not need to use the verifier app for every pass.
Is it true that the same place can have different rules for different situations?
Yes, a location can use different rules depending on the activity. For example, a school must not ask to for vaccine passes when dropping kids to class, but can require a vaccine pass for entry to the school gala.
Does my child need a vaccine pass?
Children under the age of 12 years and 3 months do not need to a vaccine pass to enter places using vaccine passes.
Do I need to be vaccinated to be involved in community activities?
Community activities like going to church and playing sports are generally considered gatherings.
The person, business or organisation who organised the gathering can choose:
- to require vaccine passes; or
- not require a vaccine pass. If they choose not to use a vaccine pass fewer people can attend the gathering.
It’s possible for businesses and organisations following these rules to switch from requiring vaccine passes to not requiring vaccine passes for different events. For example, they may choose to have some gatherings with vaccinated people only using vaccine passes, and other gatherings that include unvaccinated people. They must use the correct traffic light limits for each option. To check the capacity limits for each traffic light setting, visit www.covid19.govt.nz/traffic-lights/covid-19-protection-framework
Do guests need to show a vaccine pass if I host a house party?
A house party is generally considered a gathering. You can have parties and gatherings at your house, but the traffic light system and gathering limits will apply.
You can choose:
- to require vaccine passes; or
- not require a vaccine pass. If you choose not to ask for vaccine passes, less people can attend.
You do not have to keep a record of attendees if you know and would be able to identify everyone present. If you can’t identify everyone, you need to use a QR code or some other record.
For example, if you host a group of ten friends (who all knew each other) to your house you would not need to make them scan a QR code or present a vaccine pass unless you wanted to do so.
On the other hand, if you want to host a party at your home with 40 people during the red traffic light level you need to make sure everyone has a vaccine pass. This is because you can only have 25 people for red level gatherings when vaccine passes are not used.
Can I go to my child’s school if I am unvaccinated?
You can go on to school grounds to for lessons, to collect children from lessons and afterschool care, and to discuss your child’s education with their teacher. You do not need a vaccine pass to enter school grounds for those reasons.
You might need to be vaccinated for other school activities. Gathering limits apply for activities that are not directly part of the school curriculum. For example, you may need a vaccine pass for:
- school galas,
- prize giving events
- weekend sports
- attending a parent and caregiver hui
A school can refuse entry for other activities if they are considered high risk (For example, attending at a board meeting). They could do this after a risk assessment which includes looking for other ways to conduct the activity safely.
You may also need a vaccine pass to access school grounds for activities occurring outside school hours.
Where can I go for more support?
If you need legal support or clarity on what you’ve read here, please contact a Community Law Centre or other legal advice service.
For up-to-date information about traffic light settings and boundaries, please go to www.covid19.govt.nz