The operators of the Matakana Village Farmers Market are calling for negative Covid tests to be made a valid entry requirement in addition to vaccine passports.
Founder Richard Didsbury says while scanning people’s My Vaccine Passes to the Saturday morning markets has been working well since they reopened on December 4, he is keen to see proof of a negative test added for those who were as yet unvaccinated.
“It would be good if we could be able to have people who have had a negative test in the past 72 hours, as happens on the border, that would be fantastic,” he says. “There are people who don’t want to get vaccinated, but if they can prove they haven’t got Covid, the second the Government allows us to admit them with testing, we will absolutely embrace that.”
Mr Didsbury says most customers and stallholders have been happy with the entry restrictions at the Red Light level, although there was some concern and confusion at first.
“The first week, we might have had 1000 people there and 10 people arrived and were a little unhappy. Last week there were three, and last week rather than criticism, we had overwhelming support,” he says. “There were so many statements from the public about how great it was knowing they were coming to a safe place. It was astounding how much people were thanking us.”
He says there has also been “a little bit of stress and strain” with a few stallholders adjusting to the new regime.
“Some of the stallholders, like a small part of society, are struggling with the compulsion of vaccination and would rather there wasn’t that compulsion of vaccination.
“They represent a minority in the broader population and find it difficult that the Government is imposing laws around how they operate.”
However, he says that because the farmers’ market was all about tasting, buying and enjoying food, they had to take the vaccine passport route for hospitality and events, rather than adopt retail regulations.
“Our particular market has a large number of different food offerings and under the legislation, you’re not allowed to offer any tastings or consumption of food next to premises, and a large number of our stallholders want people to taste their produce,” Mr Didsbury says.
“Without the passport system, we’d not be able to offer any food tastings. If you just buy and take away, that’s one thing, but that’s not practical for us.”
He says everyone is now looking forward to moving to Orange level on December 30, when there will be no longer be a limit on numbers admitted to the market. Vaccine passports will still be required, however.