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Moving to orange . . . Getting ready to operate under the new traffic light system from today are (top, from left) Razors Edge senior stylist Elisha Mountney, owner Raelene Guthrie, and trainee hairdresser Libby Robb and (bottom) Shortblack Cafe owner Caidee Pennycook. PHOTOS: RUBY HEYWARD

The traffic light system is here.

As of today, businesses must adopt the Government’s new traffic light system — the entire South Island moving into ‘‘orange’’ — but this means different things for different businesses.

In Waitaki, many businesses held the ‘‘consensus’’ that the vaccination pass mandate would keep people safer, Oamaru Business Collective chairwoman Cara Tipping Smith said.

‘‘I think there is a good understanding that [being] double jabbed doesn’t mean you can’t get or transmit Covid — just that it’s less likely and likely less severe,’’ Ms Tipping Smith said.

Many business owners had acknowledged they did not want to be the reason anyone got Covid›19, she said.

However, Ms Tipping Smith said many newcomers to town had been surprised by how relaxed people were and found it ‘‘weird’’ seeing people on the street not wearing masks.

When or if Covid›19 comes to Waitaki, some businesses may become ‘‘more emphatic’’ about the rules as the perception of risk shifted, she said.

Some businesses had been ‘‘making a stand’’ with posters stating they would not discriminate on the basis of vaccination status, but most businesses were ‘‘very silent on the issue’’.

‘‘The difficult part ishow we check and what we do with people who are unwilling to co› operate with that mandate,’’ she said.

‘‘I think this is the reason for silence as the requirements and processes aren’t yet clear.’’

This was a real concern for some businesses, which felt it would be ‘‘very uncomfortable’’ to stop and check people’s vaccination passes at the door.

Shortblack Cafe owner Caidee Pennycook shared this concern and felt there was little guidance in how the system worked nor how it would be policed.

Miss Pennycook was nervous about any conflict that might arise, but was happy to arrange contactless services for unvaccinated people.

After experiencing a slow period following this year’s lockdown, Miss Pennycook was also worried the new system would deter customers.

After lockdown restrictions lifted in 2020, business picked up pretty quickly, but this year people had been put off by the mask mandate, she said.

Business had only just started picking up again as Christmas neared, she said.

‘‘I hope people don’t get scared off by it.’’

Some hospitality businesses in Waitaki had decided against implementing the vaccine pass.
Award›winning Riverstone Kitchen has opted to offer contactless takeaways rather than implement the mandate.

Owner Bevan Smith said the restaurant would operate under Government guidelines for contactless service from this weekend and would be ‘‘reassessing the situation regularly’’.

‘‘This is the biggest thing to happen to the industry in the 30 years that I have been a chef — each and every business is going to navigate it as best as they can,’’ Mr Smith said.

‘‘It’s been a complex, confusing narrative from the Government and difficult to navigate.’’

The Fort Enfield announced it would be closed until further notice, stating it did not want to partake in the traffic light and passport system of ‘‘segregation and discrimination’’.

‘‘Our hearts are heavy for our staff, our customers and our fellow hospitality owners.’’

Like hospitality businesses, hairdressers were unable to provide face›to›face services to people who were not fully vaccinated, but could not provide an alternative contactless service.

Razors Edge owner Raelene Guthrie said she felt prepared for the new system, after training sessions with industry leaders.

Mrs Guthrie is a member of the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers Inc which had been providing Zoom sessions to prepare hairdressers for the system. She had also participated in Zoom calls with the Ministry of Health, to learn as much as she could about how it worked.

As of today, only people with valid vaccination passes were able to enter the business and use its services, she said.

Any hairdresser business that did not adhere to the rules could incur a $15,000 fine or risk closure.

Mrs Guthrie had been pragmatic in her approach to the changing rules by keeping her customers updated online and requesting that unvaccinated people cancelled any appointments they had made for dates after the system would come into effect.

Otherwise, the risk was people would not turn up to appointments that could otherwise be filled at a busy time of year, she said.

The toughest part was losing loyal customers — Mrs Guthrie had already said goodbye to some good clients. She estimated she would lose less than 10% of her clients.

‘‘It’s not good for anybody to lose business,’’ she said.

‘‘I definitely don’t want to say goodbye to anyone when they have looked after me.’’

Retail is not required to use My Vaccine Passes, which came as a relief to Ballantynes Showcase Jewellers owner Wendy Bradfield, who said she would need to pull a staff member from the floor to staff the door, putting pressure on its operations.

Mrs Bradfield said many older people had been avoiding shopping because they did not like wearing masks.

If customers were put off by the new traffic light system, it mght push them to shop online, Mrs Bradfield said.

‘‘As a smaller town, we want people in our stores,’’ she said.

The Waitaki District Council is only requiring passes to be used at the Oamaru Opera House.

At other council facilities, such as libraries and the swimming pool, people would still be required to social distance and mask use was encouraged.

Chief executive Alex Parmley said the council’s approach was to try to keepas many of its services open and accessible as possible while protecting residents and staff.

More details are available on the council’s website.