Winston Peters slams 'dreadful public policy' that sees only some returning Kiwis paying for managed isolation

Source: 1News

NZ First leader Winston Peters is not happy with the "dreadful public policy" pitched today by his own coalition Government that would see only some returning Kiwis paying towards their managed isolation.

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

It comes as the Government will introduce legislation in Parliament today intended to recover some of the costs of managed isolation.

“As minister I am proposing to only charge New Zealanders who enter temporarily, or who leave New Zealand after the regulations come into force," said Housing Minister Megan Woods.

"Temporary visa holders would have to pay unless they were ordinarily resident in New Zealand before the border closure, and left before the border closure.

"I intend to seek Cabinet agreement to a charging structure of $3100 per person in a room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child sharing the room. There will also be mechanisms to allow charges to be waived in full or in part.”

Moments after the announcement, Mr Peters released his own statement saying NZ First will support the legislation - even though the party disagrees with it.

“While New Zealand First will support the passage of the enabling Covid-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill, New Zealand First has invoked the ‘Agree to Disagree’ provisions of the Coalition Agreement because, on behalf of the ‘team of five million', it cannot support the unfair eligibility criteria for those New Zealanders being asked to contribute to their managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ) costs,” he said.

“We cannot support the miniscule population of qualifying people to be charged partial MIQ costs, as outlined in today’s Government announcement.

“Severely limiting the number of New Zealanders who will contribute to their MIQ to the extent announced today is a dreadful public policy response given the problem it seeks to address – the rising costs of the MIQ system on taxpayers – won’t be solved because of the self-limiting, tiny population it will affect,” stated Mr Peters.

The Green Party also put out a statement which struck a decidely different note to NZ First's.

“The Green Party are making sure Kiwis who need to return to New Zealand to live are not charged a $3000 fee,” Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said today.

“Kiwis who are returning to New Zealand temporarily can have a fee waived on compassionate grounds or if they’re experiencing financial hardship.

“As a country, we should be supporting people to come home if that is what is needed for their wellbeing. New Zealand is their home and they have a right to come back."

Mr Peters took aim at the Green Party directly in his statement, saying: “Furthermore, we believe that the Green Party opposition to the originally proposed policy (that all returning New Zealanders be charged), alongside the incredibly inequitable regime proposed by our coalition partner, is putting naked political self-interest ahead of a prudent public policy response to the burdens being faced by domestic taxpayers who are, after all, underwriting the full costs of the MIQ regime.

“It is quite clear to New Zealand First that Labour/Green opposition to a more equitable and consistent MIQ charging regime opens them to the allegation that they are being overtly political. Why? Again, the Greens and Labour leave themselves open to the perception that they see New Zealanders overseas as a source of votes for the looming General Election, so public policy integrity has given way to electoral strategy.

“This is grossly unfair on the New Zealand taxpayer, burdened with the burgeoning cost of maintaining the MIQ system – already estimated to be half a billion dollars for the remainder of the year."

Mr Peters then went on to outline NZ First's preferred approach to the issue.

“In New Zealand First’s view, it would have been preferable for all returnees to be charged partial MIQ costs via IRD, in a similar arrangement to the Student Loan Scheme.

"This would not discriminate between different types of returning New Zealanders. All returnees could be issued with an IRD number on arrival, if they don’t already have one.

“At implementation stage, IRD would be provided with the discretion to write-off any debt due to hardship at a future date. IRD would also be given the ability to seek payment of the debt once the returnee either proved their ability to pay or gained employment and began to pay tax."

Earlier, National said, should they be elected to Government, they would charge travellers entering the country $3000 to help cover the costs of managed isolation and quarantining.