The enormous gap between demand from New Zealanders wanting to come home and MIQ spaces was revealed with the new booking system yesterday:
With the unveiling of the MIQ virtual lobby booking system this morning, Kiwis trying to get home are starting to wonder if they ever actually will
A few weeks ago, the announcement of a virtual lobby and queue system coming to the MIQ booking system got hopes up worldwide – from migrants trying to get to their new lives in New Zealand, and Kiwis trying to get home.
But this morning as the virtual lobby opened and sorted people randomly into a queue, it was soon realised that getting one’s hands on a room is still more easily said than done, with a group the size of Timaru also at the lolly scramble.
MIQ released 3000 rooms this morning, but with the queue reaching up to more than 27,000 people, it seems nine in 10 can expect to walk away disappointed.
That’s more than the combined populations of Oamaru and Wanaka who are either shut out of their homeland or can’t leave, even for pressing personal or business reasons, because they won’t be able to come back.
Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins told people last week they could expect next batches to be 4000 rooms.
However, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment cautioned that because many rooms had already been allocated before the recent pause and facilities may need maintenance, the timing and size of future releases is still being worked on. . .
It’s cruel to keep so many people out and some people don’t just want to come home, they need to come home.
This morning’s debut of the new ‘virtual lobby’ system for MIQ allocation was both depressing and a debacle, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“The virtual lobby system used for the first time this morning solves nothing and has just created even more angst amongst the thousands of Kiwis trying to come home.
“What is needed is a prioritisation system based on points, as proposed by the National Party.
“How is it fair that someone sleeping in a car overseas with an expired visa is treated the same as someone who wants to come home to New Zealand for a holiday at Christmas time?
“There are Kiwis stuck offshore who aren’t legally allowed to be in the country they’re currently in, but who can’t get home to New Zealand. This is an awful situation and one entirely of the Government’s own creation.
“There are people trying to move back to New Zealand permanently with skills and experiences gained overseas treated the same as someone who is just coming for a short period.
“New Zealand should welcome back expats who have typically headed off on an Overseas Experience and who have developed their skills and gained valuable offshore experience.
“When we have a health workforce shortage, why do we treat nurses and doctors the same as other occupations when granting space? It doesn’t make sense. We should be rigorously targeting health sector skills.
“Let’s be clear – there are many good reasons for people to want to come to New Zealand through MIQ, but we need to be realistic. Some reasons have more merit than others, but the system treats everyone the same. . .
There are emergency spaces but sports people, entertainers and politicians and their entourage get those spots ahead of people desperate to return home:
If James Shaw was giving consolation gifts to Kiwis desperately trying to get home this Christmas he’d likely give them a lump of coal, having confirmed he plans to take 14 staff with him to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith says.
“In answers to our written questions, Minister Shaw has confirmed he intends to take an entourage of 14 people with him to Glasgow – nine from Wellington and a further five from offshore.
“At a time when thousands of Kiwis are unable to get into New Zealand thanks to our chaotic and unfair MIQ system, James Shaw feels he needs an even bigger entourage this time around than the one he took to COP25 in 2019.
“It is astonishing that the Minister is going to COP26 in the first place, let alone taking up 10 MIQ spots for himself and his onshore staffers when they return. . .
“We have heard countless stories of New Zealanders wanting to come home but who are locked out because they can’t get MIQ spots.
“But that won’t be an issue for Minister Shaw and his entourage – they’ll be home in time Christmas with their families.”
A points system would help prioritise applicants, but it wouldn’t solve the underlying problem of demand for MIQ spaces outstripping supply so badly.
More MIQ facilities are needed – preferably purpose built and away from the centre of Auckland.
Planning and building them would take many months but there is a much simpler and less expensive option that could start immediately.
It would be possible to reduce demand for the scarce spaces by allowing some people to by-pass MIQ.
Friends in the USA were able to travel out of the country and return provided they were fully vaccinated, had a negative test before flying, and self-isolated at home on their return with electronic monitoring to ensure they stayed put.
The government could start a similar system with business travellers, who, as Sir Ian Taylor pointed out know how to keep their people safe:
What we have learned from our experience over the past year and a half is that businesses have a huge interest in keeping their people safe from Covid and they can do it faster than governments because they aren’t having to look after entire countries.
We are only ever sending small numbers away at any time. The 250 staff company I mentioned earlier has a maximum of eight people who ever have to travel abroad. It’s not an Olympic team. . .
So, “what if” businesses didn’t need to take up MIQ spaces. “What if” businesses could apply existing technologies and protocols that would guarantee that none of their teams would have Covid when they returned to Aotearoa from their essential overseas travels.
For the upcoming Ashes Series we have half a dozen fully vaccinated staff who will travel to Australia and work in mandated bubbles.
They will operate in public at our level 3 and be antigen tested every day. If they ever test positive they will be isolated immediately but, in a year and a half, that has never happened to any of our Kiwi crew offshore.
Three days before they leave Australia to return home they will go into isolation in an approved hotel, or self-isolation location, paid for by us. There they will be tested each day, including the day they fly.
On return to New Zealand they will be booked into an approved hotel or self-managed isolation location, again booked and paid for by us, where they will remain for three to five days, again being tested every day before returning to work. We have built our own tracking app which will be used for audit purposes.
Variations of this model could be used by any company needing to plan overseas travel with certainty.
Do we really need to do another trial when there are already models in play? Why can’t we come off the bench and just make this happen? It’s working now. . .
No there doesn’t need to be another trial.
What is needed is for the government to get over its control freakery, realise that it and its bureaucrats don’t always know best and open its mind to other ways of allowing New Zealanders to come home safely.