Councils struggle with security costs due to Covid pandemic

Source: 1News

A rise in abuse towards staff has meant extra security has become another Covid expense that many are now struggling with.

New figures show some councils are spending tens of thousands a week on additional security since the traffic light system came into effect.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said the spending was about ensuring staff safety.

“What price do you put on safety? And this is all about safety. It's about making sure we can actually run our services," Foster said.

“People are refusing to wear masks, people are refusing to show their vaccine passes to prove they are vaccinated… and then people are refusing to leave or are actually there deliberately trying to pick a confrontation.”

Staff from Christchurch City Council say they encounter at least a dozen cases of verbal abuse or threats every day – with several deemed serious – compared to only one or two before the pandemic.

Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington city councils have each spent over $20,000 a week to provide additional security at their venues.

Meanwhile, Auckland Council is relying on existing staff to enforce vaccination pass requirements.

The council’s acting director of customer services, Mace Ward, said they had more flexibility than other councils in the country.

“We have a relatively large workforce and are able to focus them on different things at different times so we have more flexibility if you like.”

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce CEO Leanne Watson said paying for extra security had become widespread.

“We've even heard of an instance of a livestock saleyard company who has had to employ an additional person to mind the gate to check vaccine passes, so this is right across the board," Watson said.

“It's just another blow that they are having to deal with and the longer that it goes on, the more difficult for those businesses to survive, particularly those small businesses."