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New Zealand military’s Covid vaccine mandate ruled unlawful

New Zealand Army Covid mandate overturned Jacinda Ardern

A court has upheld an appeal from members of the New Zealand Defence Force, ruling that the military’s Covid vaccine mandate was unlawful.

The New Zealand Court of Appeal found on Friday that the NZDF had failed to show that it was justified in imposing more serious penalties for refusing Covid-19 vaccinations than those for other illnesses.

“[The NZDF has] not shown that the objective of maintaining the ongoing efficacy of the Armed Forces could not have been achieved by a less rights-limiting measure: namely, retaining the more flexible approach that applies in relation to failure to obtain other vaccinations listed on the NZDF Vaccination Schedule,” the court found.

“To that extent, the TDFO (Temporary Defence Force Order) and related instruments are inconsistent with NZBORA (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990).”

The court urged the Chief of Defence Force to reconsider the TDFO, and prohibited the New Zealand armed forces from taking any further actions on it until the reconsideration is complete.

The four members of the NZDF involved in the appeal – two who had not received any Covid vaccinations, and two who had not received booster doses – had their initial challenge of the TDFO dismissed by a High Court judge last year.

At the time the initial case was filed in 2022, just 55 members of the NZDF were unvaccinated, out of 9251.

The ruling has largely been ignored by New Zealand‘s media, including by its two largest news websites, the NZ Herald and Stuff, both of which were enthusiastic supporters of Jacinda Ardern’s Covid vaccine mandates and lockdowns.

Todd Stephenson, Justice and Health spokesman for the centre-right ACT party, said the ruling made it clear New Zealand needed an independent Covid inquiry.

“Jacinda Ardern stressed the independence of the Covid Royal Commission while at the same time hamstringing it by limiting its terms of reference, giving it very little scope to investigate whether major reductions to our freedoms were justified,” he said on Monday.

“All New Zealanders were affected by the previous government’s Covid response, and we shouldn’t have to rely on ad hoc challenges in the Courts to answer basic questions like whether government agencies were justified in curtailing our rights and freedoms.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said: “New Zealand First campaigned on and fought for the removal of any and all remaining workplace mandates being enforced, and we ensured it was included in our coalition deal with National.

“This ruling by the Court of Appeal is evidence that it is the right and just thing to do to get rid of these remaining mandates.”

UPDATE (20/02/2024): The New Zealand Defence Force finally responded to the ruling, releasing a statement complaining about the use of the word “mandate” to describe its requirement that all members be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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