Public toilets across the region have been closed to limit the spread of covid-19. The Tinui truck stop is the only one listed as being available for essential service workers like posties and truckies. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Essential service workers who travel as part of their role, such as posties and truckies, have raised concerns about not being able to access public toilets during the lockdown period.

One driver working a rural route between Masterton and the coast, who did not wish to be named, said public toilets had been closed to them since the lockdown began.

“It’s an isolated run and I’m normally on the road for about five hours. It makes us feel like people don’t care about us. We are supplying the community with local news, food, mail, animal feed, and medicine.”

They also raised concerns about who else might be accessing public toilets and whether this increased their risk of picking up covid-19.

“Someone suggested we hire a portaloo of our own, but who’s going to pay for that? How are we going to get it up steep driveways?”

They said it was a nationwide issue but wanted councils to do more.

Waingawa-based McAuley’s Transport general manager Steve McMahon agreed it had been an issue for their drivers but more with external councils.

“There are some issues out there but it’s being worked through by industry [representatives],” he said.

A list of toilets available in the North Island, published by the Road Transport Forum, listed the Tinui truck stop as the only one in Wairarapa.

Andrea Jackson, manager community facilities and activities for Masterton District Council, said all toilets had been closed for a time to allow the cleaning contractor to obtain the appropriate PPE for staff.

“That equipment has now been received and the Queen Elizabeth Park exeloo [near Dixon St] and Tinui toilets will be opened for essential services,” she said.

She asked for members of the public not to use them and leave them for essential services staff.

“The other toilets will remain closed to reduce the risk to the public.”

All public toilets in Carterton and South Wairarapa have been closed, with council chief executives citing public health reasons.

Carterton District Council chief executive Jane Davis said the risk of passing on the virus from toilets and door handles was “too high” compared to the minor inconvenience the closures may cause people.

It also minimised the risk of exposure to the virus for cleaning staff.

“Essential service providers will need to identify bathroom options in advance of any trips,” she said.

“We feel bad about potentially causing issues for them, but at this time we are very focused on the safety of our community and our staff.”

South Wairarapa District Council closed all public toilets accessible via the main routes to its towns with chief executive Harry Wilson agreeing it was a matter of minimising the risk of transmission.

“At the moment, we cannot ensure that our public conveniences are safe to use,” he said.

“Therefore, it is only by keeping the public toilets closed that we can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus and keep our community, including essential workers and their families, safe.”