Coronavirus: Potential $1000 fine for breaking public transport mask mandate

Flouting the mask mandate rules on public transport could land people a fine of up to $1000.

On Monday, face coverings became compulsory to wear on public transport at alert level 2 and above. Those who are exempt from these rules are people aged under 12 and those who have a physical or mental health condition or disability that means they can't wear a mask.

No infringements have been given out by police yet, Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said on Wednesday, but fees of $300 could be issued or a fine imposed by a court of up to $1000.

So far, public transport users have been mostly compliant with the new rules.

"The public response to the new rules around wearing masks on public transport continues to be overwhelmingly positive," Chambers said.

"Police has spoken with very few people who did not have masks for public transport and continues to take an education and encouragement approach.

"No infringements have been issued."

He said earlier in the week police officers stationed at public transport hubs were giving out masks to people who weren't wearing one, and there are about 10,000 masks per police district.

"We're here to help our people," he said.

Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers.
Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers. Photo credit: The AM Show

Although many had been following the rules, a Christchurch man was lambasted after posting an "attention-seeking" video of him refusing to wear a mask, occupying the doorway of a bus while holding flags and demanding to be fined.

Adam Nuttall posted his video to YouTube on Monday, which was subsequently shared on Reddit. He said he wanted to "get fined for not wearing a mask on public transport".

The video, called "testing Cindy's mask mandate", shows Nuttall getting on the bus maskless, holding the original New Zealand flag of United Tribes, and the current NZ flag. He compares his actions to that of US Black civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her seat for a white passenger in the 1950s. 

"I accept that some people will be upset at my actions and I would like to draw your attention to my simple demand that the threatened enforcement action be taken and a fine issued," he wrote.

He said the police were called but didn't show up until after he had vacated the bus. The video later shows three officers approaching him outside Christchurch's bus exchange.

"If the Government had been ready to enforce this 'mandate' on the first day then this protest would have been over in a few minutes," Nuttall said.

Also seen in the video are people queuing behind him wearing masks and waiting to board the bus. Commenters online have slammed him as "not smart" and "entitled".

"What an absolute attention seeking loser," one Reddit user said.

The countrywide level 2 and '2.5' restrictions for Auckland, both of which mean the mask mandate is enforced, will remain in place until at least September 6.