At 8am on Monday the new MIQ ‘lobby’ system will open its virtual doors with 3000 spots on offer.

No captionBarriers outside a managed isolation facility. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi


New Zealanders stuck overseas will have one hour to get in, where they’ll be put in a randomised queue and given a spot when they reach the front.

Mike Newell, spokesperson for the Grounded Kiwis group which advocates for a fairer MIQ system, said lifting the pause was a good start.

But he said the timing might be off for some New Zealanders overseas.

“It’s not a great time for people that are, say, in the Middle East or in Asia, and it might not be a great time for somebody that is working on an oil rig.

“It’s not accessible to everyone all over the globe.

“So we’d like to see more visibility of how they plan to time and release rooms in the future.”

About 4000 rooms at a time will be released on a fortnightly basis.

People overseas who need to travel urgently can still apply for an emergency spot in managed isolation.

But the criteria for that hasn’t changed and Newell said the group was hearing daily from people who were slipping through the cracks.

“We had a case of a guy in the United States, his employment has ended and his visa is expiring and MFAT can’t help him, they won’t help him.

“He’s got no choice but to overstay his visa, in a country where they don’t look on overstayers very kindly, but he can’t get the spot in MIQ because he doesn’t meet the criteria for emergency allocation.”

The number of rooms available in MIQ hasn’t increased either.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the lottery system was not a silver bullet, but should help with planning.

“We will know how many people join the lobby before the booking process commences and that will give us a bit of an indication of what we think their forward patterns of demand are going to be,” he told Checkpoint.

Newell said it was not yet clear what will happen if spots are cancelled at the last minute, or whether rooms will go to waste.

For some trying to get out of New Zealand the new system doesn’t fix much.

Auckland-based travel technology consultant Mike Moore has been trying for months to secure a spot in MIQ.

His brother, who lived in the United Kingdom, died unexpectedly a few months ago and he wants to support his family in person.

But he is in a sort of limbo – with no guarantee when he can return to New Zealand he is holding off on booking.

He said the latest announcement did not change much at all.

“It doesn’t resolve the fact that you have no idea when, or whether, you’ll be able to get a slot and when you might be able to get a slot. How and when you could travel, how you could be reunited with family, or whatever the big reason that you’ve got for going is.

“There’s still the same number of needles in the haystack here.”

Monday’s voucher release will not include red flights from Australia.

Hipkins said a decision on the trans-Tasman bubble would made next week but no one should bank on it taking flight again anytime soon.

Points-based system

National Party’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop told Morning Report the changes were “basically a band aid over a festering gaping sore that is the MIQ system”.

“The key point is the system doesn’t discriminate based on why you want to come home to New Zealand.

“Someone coming home for a holiday is treated exactly the same as someone who is desperate to come home to visit a dying relative.”

He said it would be fairer to allocate points based on people’s reasons for coming home, and the more points a person has, the greater their chance of getting an MIQ spot.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said for a two-week stay there was a lot of complexity in a points-based system. It involved detailed needs assessments and required setting up a “huge system” which he said would potentially mean delays.

Hipkins said there was an emergency allocation for people with an urgent need to return to New Zealand.