There has been massive demand as the Government today launched its new "lobby" system for places in managed isolation, with one UK-based couple calling the system a "bloody nightmare".
There were 3000 room vouchers available between September and December being released, which will be randomly allocated.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said when the lobby system was announced that he hoped it would level the playing field for those trying to return to New Zealand, but accepted there would likely be more demand than rooms available.
"It's not a first in and first serve model. Everyone who enters the lobby at that time will have an equal chance to book."
The further closure of the trans-Tasman bubble last week saw those wanting to travel from Australia eligible for rooms.
Demand for one of the places was huge, with people sharing their experiences online.
Tens of thousands of people were in the lobby when it opened this morning, including Sue and Mark Duffy, who have been trying to secure an MIQ spot since June.
Their two-year two-year secondment in the dairy industry ends this month and they are trying to return from Gloucestershire in England.
"Honestly, we thought we might have been celebrating but, it’s just gutting really," Sue told 1News from her home.
"I don’t know that Hipkins has done a very good thing this time either has he? It’s a fiasco."
With just weeks to go, the Duffys have started to send gear home in case a spot comes up and live out of their suitcases.
They have emailed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, then passed it onto Hipkins, but have had no response.
The couple, both fully vaccinated, admit there are other New Zealanders in tougher situations.
"It’s hard and it takes a toll, it does. All I want is a date and then family gatherings will come after it but it’s emotionally hard.
"We built ourselves up for it for the whole day thinking we might, we might get there and then, it’s just so deflating."
"I think the feeling both Mark and I felt tonight was gutted. That’s the word for it just totally gutted."
Sue and Mark say they’ll stay up all hours in hopes of getting a spot but wonder what happens now.
"There’s no explanation on the site of what the next step is, we’re 20,000 in the queue. What do we do? Wait or wait another two weeks? What do we do?"
MBIE's Megan Main said there were "quite a few thousand rooms" that would be available until Christmas.