Department of Conservation (DOC) is introducing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all accommodation facilities from 15 December 2021.
“All DOC campgrounds and huts will only be open to those who are fully vaccinated. When booking, visitors will be required to confirm they and all others in their group are fully vaccinated,” said Steve Taylor, DOC heritage and visitors director.
Hut wardens and camp hosts who are regularly on-site will be checking for vaccination status.
Taylor added that a vaccination policy for staff will also be finalised soon.
“We are also consulting this week on a health and safety requirement that all DOC staff, contractors, and volunteers must be vaccinated to work in or visit DOC workplaces including Visitor Centres.”
For more remote huts and smaller campsites that are not bookable, there will be spot checks.
“Visitors will need to make a judgment on whether they are comfortable with that.
“DOC’s accommodation is often remote, off the grid, and brings people together from all locations. Vaccination provides a higher level of protection and significantly reduces the risk of infection spreading and people suffering serious illness.”
Taylor said DOC’s visitor survey data and visitor feedback showed a “strong public desire for confidence that others sharing DOC accommodation are also vaccinated.”
“Where issues arise for higher-risk sites – such as popular unbookable huts and campsites – some facilities may need to be closed at Red or Orange and people should prepare for this possibility when planning a trip.
“We are asking all members of the public to respect the health and safety of others. When requested you must show your COVID-19 vaccine verification. We will be monitoring peoples’ compliance and regularly reviewing our policy. If there are problems with non-compliance, DOC will assess whether facilities need to be closed.”
People who are not fully vaccinated will still be able to use tracks and most DOC toilers but cannot use DOC hut facilities or DOC campgrounds.
“We will be contacting people ahead of their bookings advising them they need to be fully vaccinated otherwise their booking will need to be cancelled.
“Cancellations are easy, and DOC will provide a full refund to those who are unwell, subject to travel restrictions, concerned about COVID risks or who are not fully vaccinated.
“DOC staff will be undertaking health and safety spot checks for confirmation of vaccination status. Where practical, we will be turning those without a COVID-19 vaccine verification away and where appropriate, taking safety measures to isolate them from other hut and campsite users.
“These health and safety measures are being implemented to help keep visitors and staff safe and ensure New Zealanders can have a fantastic summer enjoying nature.”