Police are investigating after anti-vaccination protesters smeared saliva through a council building in Tākaka on Tuesday. It comes as aggression and abuse towards frontline staff continues to be problematic over the summer period.
Tasman Mayor Tim King said the majority of the 30 protesters at the council’s service centre in Tākaka were well behaved. The group were protesting a rule change which means local libraries will now require vaccine passes.
“A small number kind of went a bit over top and smeared saliva on various parts of the building and were intimidating to the staff”.
Staff at the service centre retreated to a back room during the protest and the centre had to be closed for a short time. “There's the staff only area out the back of the building so they went into that space to avoid the confrontation”.
A police spokesperson said there were reports of a number of people who were “acting in a disorderly manner and refusing to leave”. However, a short time later the group did leave and police weren’t required.
King says the incident crossed the line: “They're just doing their job. These issues are not made by them, the rules aren't made by them. They're just there enforcing them”.
In Wellington the use of vaccination passes is also causing issues. Wellington Libraries Manager Laurinda Thomas says there’s been an increase in abuse since the latest lockdown.
"It doesn't seem to be being any better the kind of things our staff are experiencing are just general reluctance to scan their passes. But this also escalates to quite full on abuse with people swearing refusing to present their pass and in some cases actually trying to physically assault a guard”.
Thomas said the ongoing issues were having a huge impact on staff, “because of the fact we are getting that increased level of aggression we are seeing people increasingly frustrated and acting out, we have shorter hours right now”.
Retail New Zealand Chief Executive Greg Harford says over the last couple of years aggression towards staff has been increasing. “I think people are fatigued by the Covid rules.
"It’s been going on for a long time and often it's impacting people in ways they don’t expect."
The biggest issue for retail businesses right now is customers refusing to wear masks.
“What’s really important is that there’s some really clear guidance from Government that actually you do need to wear a mask in stores and actually there should be very, very few people who don’t need to do that," Harford says.
A police spokesperson says at this stage there hasn’t been an increase in compliance issues over summer, but urges anyone who sees abuse or aggression to report it to police.