ACT has been busy in the Parliamentary Recess. ACT’s policies to let people get on with building homes, and crack down on gangs have been well received. Meanwhile, the Party’s MPs have been listening to huge crowds up and down the country. Eighty people showed up on a cold night in Stratford. In Feilding 170 and 200 in Hastings. This is not the story of a minor party the year after an election’s just been. It is an uprising against a government that mistakenly thinks its victory amidst a crisis gave it a mandate to remake New Zealand. There are more events to come, including Kerikeri, Dargaville and Gisborne this week, here.
MIQ is now the bottleneck making New Zealand a hermit kingdom. Families are divided. People can’t visit dying relatives. Businesses are stalling and even closing due to a lack of workers. The export education sector is losing out as Canada, for instance, lets vaccinated foreign nationals in from next month. People report they can’t get into MIQ until November, and it’s going to get worse when all arrivals from Australia have to use MIQ, too.
(That is, if none of the thousands returning from Australia this week bring the delta variant and lock New Zealand down).
Since last August, ACT has been saying that the Government should allow private MIQ. If private businesses can isolate travellers as safely as the Government, then what is its objection? Needless to say, the Government has not listened or adopted this kind of thinking. Those who’ve made detailed proposals to the Government have got nowhere.
But the times, they are a changing. When the Government first commissioned MIQ, it had advice to take on a lot more hotel space. We now know it rejected that advice. Instead fewer than 10,000 people a month can enter New Zealand, down 98 per cent from the pre-COVID level of around half a million per month. Besides the Government having rejected more MIQ capacity of its own, the COVID world is changing.
ACT’s COVID 2.0 paper predicted that vaccines, variants, new technologies, and COVID fatigue would change the game. We called them the four megatrends underlying the pandemic. They have come true, and the Government needs to change tack.
After half a year of denial, the Government has admitted the technology of saliva testing is as accurate as nasopharyngeal testing for COVID. There is no reason that cheaper, faster, and more comfortable saliva testing cannot be deployed to make private MIQ safer than what the Government is doing.
Vaccines mean people can get the virus without hospitalisation, death or transmission the way unvaccinated people do.
Variants, particularly Delta, mean that COVID will be around for a lot longer, infecting more people, and making it harder to maintain elimination in New Zealand without new approaches at the border. Compounding that, fatigue means that people won’t stand for the same response, month after month as the world moves on. You only have to watch Sydney over the weekend to see that.
The Government needs to show it can innovate, and point to a pathway out of hermitville. Unfortunately, it’s not listening. Today ACT has launched a policy to start reconnecting New Zealanders with the world. It is private MIQ that, with strict rules, would be safer than what the Government is doing now, but would dramatically increase capacity. It would also be a lifeline to hotel chains with mothballed hotels acting as deadweight capital.
The rules are:
- EVERYONE on site, guest or worker, must be vaccinated, no matter who they work for or why they’re there (the Government can’t guarantee that at its MIQ)
- EVERYONE on site must be tested using saliva testing every two days (the Government tests only on days zero, three, and 12, and worker testing has been holey)
- Guests would arrive over two days. After that, there are no more guest arrivals or departures, so if there is an outbreak, nobody has left
- Providers must be licenced to do this, failing to follow the rules results in loss of licence.
The real question is this. If the Government isn’t prepared to allow such a minor development as this, that would be safer than what it is doing now, then when the hell do we get our way of life back?
This policy is part of ACT’s third policy paper during the Parliamentary recess. If you’d like to read all of ACT’s ideas for economic recovery post COVID, please download the paper here. If you’d like to see more work like this, please consider joining and or donating to ACT.