Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Ministry’s opaque travel exemption process suffocating businesses

“The Ministry of Health’s opaque process for Auckland travel exemptions is suffocating local businesses,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government needs to be open and transparent about how efficiently the process is working.

“How many applications for exemptions have been received, approved and declined? What’s the average wait time for an application? How many officials are working on the several thousand remaining applications? Are they working weekends to clear the backlog? What feedback has the Ministry and the Minister received about the process, and will it be changed if we have another lockdown?

“As we’ve seen with testing, contact tracing and isolation, the only way we can improve the Covid-19 response is by shining a light on the Government’s failings.

“The Health Minister needs to front up and tell New Zealanders what he is doing to reduce the level of bureaucracy facing local Auckland businesses.

“Businesses in Warkworth and Pukekohe, which are located just inside Auckland, are finding it impossible to get exemptions for their employees who live just outside the city to travel across the boundary to work.

“Local businesses have been waiting several days to hear from the Ministry of Health whether their employees can travel a few kilometres to go to their jobs, or have been declined outright. That’s insane.

“Businesses are losing significant revenue but the Ministry is being totally unresponsive.

“During the last lockdown, the process for determining essential business was run by MBIE. But the Government has inexplicably given this job to the Ministry of Health.

“The Ministry has received more than 10,300 applications for exemptions but has made decisions on just 1,900.

“Meanwhile, the Government has created a bizarre exemption for Rocket Lab employees to be able to travel in order to scrub rockets.

“ACT has always maintained that businesses who can operate safely should be allowed to do so. The same goes for travel. Businesses shouldn’t have to fight the bureaucracy for several days just so their employees can travel a few kilometres across the Auckland boundary.”