“Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins owe Kiwis stuck in Australia an apology for leaving them stranded with no flights for today’s MIQ lottery,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“In the midst of a pandemic, the Government’s on holiday and New Zealand citizens desperate to come home are paying the price.

“Last night the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said ‘Due to the delay to the opening of the self-isolation pathway from Australia, airlines do not currently have any red flights scheduled from Australia for March or April. For this reason, those travelling from Australia will not be able to participate in tomorrow’s room release. MIQ is working with airlines in relation to schedules and future releases.’

“Four Air New Zealand A320s could carry 720 people across the ditch. If the Government could have persuaded Air New Zealand to fly them, half the slots could have been for Kiwis stranded in Oz. Jacinda and Chris should explain, did they ask Air New Zealand, and what was the answer?

“You couldn’t make this up. The Government should have worked with airlines to ensure vaccinated, negative-tested Kiwis have a pathway home. Their failure means airlines have given up on us.

“Better still, they should have been realistic about the fact that Omicron is going to get here, started four month boosters immediately last month, and not delayed the end of MIQ at all. Then Kiwis in Oz could come to New Zealand and self-isolate. If they were tested and vaccinated, it’s not obvious that a well-run home isolation program would have brought forward the inevitable escape of Delta into New Zealand in any case.

“The Government was unprepared for Delta, leading to Auckland spending months in lockdown. Instead of spending time preparing for the next inevitable variant, they’ve been blindsided by Omicron too.

“The MIQ room release has already been delayed once because the Government wasn’t prepared.

“The Government needs to start working with business, balancing risks properly, and being nimble in its COVID response. It should have been in touch with the airlines, realised New Zealand risks being bypassed, and started four month boosters immediately when that policy was announced on December 21 instead of waiting two weeks until yesterday.

“Yes COVID is hard but Labour are making it much harder than it needs to be.

“Families have been separated by border closures, children have missed the funerals of their parents, husbands and wives have been kept apart and businesses can’t get staff.

“It makes no sense that DJs can come and go but New Zealanders can’t come home at all. Chris Hipkins told the country those DJs got MIQ spots abandoned by those who thought they could come home and self-isolate from mid-January. I can’t imagine how angry they’ll be now they know they can’t get back in through MIQ either.

“Chris Hipkins and Jacinda need to front today to apologise and explain to New Zealanders how they’ve managed to stuff this up so badly.”