Friday, 19 March 2021

Govt knows MIQ network could be bigger, but won’t act


“The Government knows the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) network could be 23 hotels bigger – it commissioned work on it and was told so – but has done nothing about it, leaving thousands of Kiwis stranded overseas unable to get a place in MIQ,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Once MIQ constraints became apparent, training should have begun to ensure enough staff were available to run the extra facilities.

“Earlier this month MIQ spaces released for June and July caused the booking website to crash, again, but somehow 126 places have been found for the cast and crew of the Lion King stage show.

“But there should be enough room for the Lion King production, other critical workers and returning Kiwis.

Details released to ACT under the Official Information Act reveal MBIE did ‘desk assessments of 70 potential additional MIQ facilities.’

“Of these 55 had further physical assessments and were considered suitable for being used for MIQ, but the Government settled on a network of 32 and hasn’t budged since.

“MBIE hasn’t been tasked with increasing the size of the network by even one more hotel, telling ACT: ‘At this stage, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has not been asked to increase the size of the MIQ network.’

“This will be a crushing blow to Kiwis offshore who can’t book a room in MIQ, not to mention orchardists and vineyard owners around the country whose fruit is rotting on trees and vines.

“Last November Hawke’s Bay orchardists worked with the local DHB on a proposal for an MIQ facility close to their properties, but the Government said no.

“Since then a fraction of the required picking workforce from the Pacific has been allowed in, but even that has added to the unnecessary constraint on the MIQ network.

“Across the Tasman the sort of facility Hawke’s Bay orchardists proposed has just opened at Riverland in South Australia for 1,200 Pacific Island fruit pickers, after Government efforts to attract locals to pick the fruit failed.

“Sound familiar? The only difference is the South Australian Government recognised its folly and came to business community’s rescue. They’re saving the crop.

“Meanwhile this Government talks about continuous improvement but does nothing to suggest it isn’t just its latest catchphrase.

“If it knew it could stand up more MIQ facilities, why didn’t it start training more people to staff them? Again New Zealanders are being badly let down by poor coordination in the COVID response.

“That’s why I encourage the Government to put in place some of the sensible policy solutions in ACT’s COVID Response Plan 2.0.”