Lack of guidelines will hamper volunteer efforts

The Government must extend the deadline for volunteer organisations to comply with new Covid contact standards to prevent a number of vital community organisations closing down, says National’s Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson Maureen Pugh.

“It’s one thing to have the most strident rules for volunteers in the OECD but it’s quite another to only give organisations three weeks’ notice to implement new contact standards for Covid.

“An example is the fact that more than 1000 Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteers could be forced out of service, placing an unreasonable stretch on resources, especially in smaller, remote communities.

“Contact with healthcare workers and work on any type of education site means full vaccination as a minimum requirement is required from the middle of next week – the very common scenario where emergency services are summoned to another ‘job’ direct from an initial emergency situation means huge numbers of volunteers are not eligible to serve anymore.

“I congratulate FENZ for thinking ahead to preserve the important qualifications for these frontline people, so as no qualifications are lost while the situation is sorted out.

“That’s a huge relief in terms of preventing the need for retraining.

“However, more time is needed to assess the situation before letting go of crucial volunteers.

“I have written to Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins requesting an urgent extension to next weeks’ deadline.

“By having no national guidelines, the Government has placed our valuable volunteer sector with depleted frontline crews, going below basic safety levels and creating a hazard for the whole community.”