Debate looms as COVID-19 vaccine passports set to become 'the new norm' in New Zealand

Australia plans to have a vaccine passport ready in the next few weeks, to support the return of international travel. 

And with New Zealand sticking to its plan to start opening up in 2022, a digital form of vaccine proof is also in the pipeline here.

There could soon be a new QR code in town - a vaccine passport of sorts - similar to the one used in the UK at bars and clubs.

"It's a fait accompli, it's going to be the new norm - but it's going to be part of the future," says Hospitality NZ CEO Julie White.

The Government is developing an app that will store health information, including vaccine and testing data. But it's a work in progress.

"They're looking to have, I believe, something available I think in the latter part of this year," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

It will make future travel easier; you currently need to request a vaccination letter. And it could also be used domestically. Many restaurants want it, so only vaccinated customers dine out.

"Around 66 percent of our members are in support of establishing something like this in their businesses," said Marisa Bidois, Restaurant Association NZ CEO.

Mandating vaccines at places like restaurants is a looming debate.

Currently, getting jabbed is still a choice unless you work at the border. However Air New Zealand is considering making vaccines compulsory for non-border workers, too.

"Ultimately if there aren't other roles, or other options for managing that risk, then it could mean the end of employment for people - but that's not the only option," said the company's chief medical officer Dr Ben Johnson.

One employment law expert says it's a legal grey area, but dismissal is possible under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

"They can't dismiss them for not being vaccinated, but they can dismiss them by saying 'look, there's no work for you while you're not vaccinated because it's unsafe for you to be in your work environment'," said Max Whitehead.

The Government says employers cannot require staff to get the jab, but they can require certain jobs to be done only by vaccinated workers if it's a justified health and safety risk.   

"They'll need to do that in accordance with employment law," said Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

"But obviously we want as many people vaccinated as possible and I'm pleased that employers are considering their options.

Options that could mean no jab, no job - and even no jab, no pub.