MBIE apologises over ‘insensitive’ tweet about MIQ booking pause

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment has apologised for upset caused to Kiwis trying to get home over a Tweet about pausing bookings on its managed isolation booking system amid the current Covid-19 Delta outbreak.

The Government agency yesterday announced MIQ would temporarily suspend the release of rooms on the managed isolation allocation system, as well as cancel vouchers that are normally re-released, to allow space for community cases to isolate.

"No rooms will be available to book for a few days," the agency wrote on Twitter.

However, when a commenter asked how the move to suspend bookings helped anyone, MBIE's response sparked outrage.

"Hi, it helps because people can take a break from refreshing the website while there's a pause," the response read.

Securing an MIQ voucher requires someone abroad to either constantly refresh the MIQ booking website, pay someone to book a room for them, use a tool to automate the booking process, or rely on luck. When vouchers for November were released, they were all snapped up within 90 minutes.

The process has been criticised as frustrating for thousands of people desperately trying to come home.

MBIE's Twitter reply about refreshing the site was still live at 8.30am Tuesday when 1 NEWS approached MBIE for comment, but it has since been deleted.

In the comment section of the reply, desperate Kiwis trying to get back to New Zealand expressed their upset at the blunt response.

"This is an extremely insensitive comment given the state of the emergency allocation system. There are Kiwis in genuine emergencies who rely on these vouchers because you’ve denied their emergency allocation requests due to overly strict criteria or because there is no space left," one Twitter user wrote.

"As the official MBIE feed for NZ government I’m really shocked that you can make such flippant comments. Your NZ citizens abroad are in very difficult situations and you make a joke that now they can take a break from refreshing!! You have no compassion," another wrote.

Others called the reply "totally inappropriate", "unacceptable" and "thoughtless and heartless".

"This is a really really horrible thing to say and shows a complete lack of understanding of what's going on with those of us outside NZ. The fact you admit that people have to keep refreshing and we might need a break shows you know the system is broken," a Twitter response reads.

In a statement to 1 NEWS on Tuesday MBIE apologised.

"The announcement about pausing the release and re-release of rooms was intended to reduce stress and inform people seeking to book a voucher, so that they could stop refreshing the website as there would be no rooms to secure," joint head of MIQ Megan Main said.

"We apologise for not making this clearer in the tweet and for any upset caused."

Main said New Zealand's current Delta outbreak, which currently sits at 148 community cases, meant MIQ needed to carefully manage capacity as community members enter facilities to quarantine.

"We understand that it is stressful for people trying to secure a room when demand is high. We know that many people are constantly refreshing the website looking for rooms," Main said.

"We can assure people that the emergency allocation process remains open for New Zealanders who require urgent travel within the next 14 days. We will let people know when the system returns to normal."

At today’s 1pm press conference, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said MBIE had apologised for the tweet, and acknowledged the stress the booking situation was causing those overseas.