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Councils and health providers work together on vaccination plans

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Southern councils and health providers are joining forces to make it easier for rural communities to get vaccinated.

The Farmgate tour hits the road on Monday 1 November, with Southland District Mayor Gary Tong visiting western and northern Southland and Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks covering eastern and southern Southland.

The two mayors will be out towing caravans with staff from Southern Health and will stop in several small communities to allow people in more isolated areas to come and get vaccinated against COVID-19. They and their support team will spend the week throughout Southland and then return at the end of the month for people to get their second vaccination. Walk-ins are encouraged and the vaccine is free of charge.

Mayors Hicks and Tong, instigators of the tour, say it made sense for Southland’s two rural-focused councils to join forces.

"COVID-19 doesn’t recognize local government boundaries. Anything we can do to make it easier for people in more remote areas to get vaccinated and lift the region’s rate above 90% has got to be good," Mayor Hicks said.

"We’re best in the country at a lot of things. Let’s be best at being vaccinated," he said.

Mayor Tong said the team was keen to get in and help and thought this could be helpful, knowing that many rural people are flat-out at the moment and didn’t have time to travel an hour or more to get a vaccination.

"We’re hoping to see lots of people getting a vaccination so we can help all of New Zealand move forward," he said.

"Let’s roll up our sleeves and get this done. We’re all in this together."

 Southern COVID-19 vaccine programme lead Hamish Brown said he was grateful for the support of councils and businesses to reach our more rural populations and was excited to see the Farmgate tour get underway.

"The more people who are vaccinated, the better protection our community has against COVID-19 and the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love. We’ve made great progress so far but to reach the last few people is going to provide a whole-community effort and it is fantastic to have our district mayors collaborating on innovative models."

The areas to be visited are Wright’s Bush, Fairfax, Drummond, Centre Bush, Dipton, Athol, Garston, Kingston, Mossburn, The Key, Manapouri, Blackmount, Orepuki, Mandeville, Balfour, Waikaia, Waikaka, Wyndham, Mokoreta, Fortrose, Gorge Road, Woodlands, Hedgehope and Waimumu. Please check or for the exact venues at the end of this week.

The locations for the tour have been selected through a combination of data analysis and discussions with key community groups such as the Rural Support Trust, Thriving Southland, and local councillors. In order to meet the time and resource available, focus has been given to rural locations that are not currently serviced by a regular provider, and/or do not have upcoming clinics already planned.

Mayor Hicks acknowledged the support of businesses, especially Inders Marineland, in Gore, who provided the caravan free of charge.

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