Organised by the Trust Tairāwhiti tourism team, the hui held at Dive Tatapouri was an opportunity for the industry to better understand the rationale behind the framework, which Ms Allan described as more agile than the previous Alert Level settings.

"We"re committed to moving from a really rigid structure to one that is agile." There"s a lot more fluidity in the traffic light system, we have more control of the environment and we don"t see ongoing requirements to shut down," she said.

"Our success and our failures are dependent on each other - we"ve got to bring the vaccine rates up in Tairāwhiti. We"ve been blessed that it's not in our town, but we"ve got the fourth worst vax rates in the country and really vulnerable communities."

Some tourism operators shared their concerns about opening to visitors while there was apprehension from iwi due to the region's low vaccination rates.

"There are some community concerns and that comes from a really valid place. We recognise and acknowledge those concerns, but the settings of the new framework are designed to minimise the harms of Covid. The public health advice we"ve got is that we"re ready," Ms Allan said.

"Our view is that we"ve got to open up our country. It's not just for economic reasons but a whole lot of factors " mental health and the covid exhaustion that has been created."

Community discussions and engagement was needed for "social licence" to operate in the current environment.

"This is a community issue and it's one the Government alone can"t fix. Social licence comes from the people and it's important to engage with stakeholders sooner rather than later. I don"t think the answer is putting up boarders and locking people out.

"If there are cases in our community, the Police will make decisions if localised checkpoints are needed but I'm confident of the measures we have in place."

Under the red setting of the Covid Protection Framework, most private businesses that are not considered essential services have the choice to require vaccination passes. Businesses that don"t face more restrictions and in some industries such as hospitality, can only provide contactless service.

Ms Allan said it was a time of swift change and challenges, but people were adapting.

"In this pandemic people"s behaviours are adapting and changing, it's what humans do, we adapt. This period feels volatile because of all the change but these decisions have been made to get us through it."

PublishDate: 8 December 2021