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Quarantine costs – critics fruitlessly whine

Written By: - Date published: 9:13 am, July 30th, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: business, covid-19, law, Social issues - Tags: , ,

I’m reasonably happy with where the government wound up on the quarantine cost recovery. It sends a clear economic signal to businesses and the fools who want to travel during a global pandemic. That will make the cost / benefit calculation for businesses clearer. It will discourage some of the stupidity of the travel addicted that I keep hearing.

About the only thing that is wrong with it is that it is a compromise. That means that all of the the ideologically rigid will be unhappy with it. And that is what the news reports I read this morning. Frankly I couldn’t give a damn about them. So far I haven’t heard any of them come up with anything better balanced.

For instance Luke Malpass at Stuff has a good whine about it in an opinion piece, and doesn’t manage to either make his own position clear now suggest anything better.

It is rare to get a policy so pointless, and so brazenly designed to appeal to people’s prejudices as the Government’s quarantine and managed isolation charging policy.

The good news is that the Government has basically backed down on where it appeared to be heading and decided that charging most citizens for returning was illegal, unjustified and unfair. This is in contrast to the National Party which says it will charge citizens $3000 each. That is also NZ First’s position.

Instead, the Government will now introduce legislation that will charge New Zealanders who live overseas and come back to the country for less than 90 days a $3100 fee for their time in quarantine.

It will also charge people who live in New Zealand the same amount when they return to the country, if they leave after the legislation is passed. Kiwis coming home permanently will not be charged.

Stuff: “Election 2020: Labour’s pandering quarantine charges

He then proceeds to waffle throughout the whole piece about how little it would raise and how much it would cost to implement. Clearly he missed the point of the legislation.

There is a global exponential pandemic running that is potentially dangerous to all people inside NZ. This is unlikely to be resolved globally either this year or even next year. We currently don’t appear to have any local transmission, and as a nation we’re pretty clear that we’d like to keep it that way. We also don’t have the medical capacity to contain wide outbreaks inside the country. The existing evidence from overseas with the phase outs of lock downs makes that abundantly clear.

That means that our borders are the best place to protect the majority of our citizens and residents – and we do that with a quite expensive quarantine procedure. The capacity of any quarantine procedure will be limited if we want to actually make it work properly.

The breaches of the overseas traveller quarantine in Melbourne make that quite clear. The breaches of quarantine here have made it just as clear that we need effective security to protect people inside NZ for the selfish few who view their needs as overriding those of everyone else (and I hope that the courts just give them maximum prison time to deter others).

There is a pent up demand for overseas travel, both from business, from people wanting to get to family for funerals/weddings/company, and then the travel addicted who want to find a warm beach in the middle of winter. These are the voluntary travellers.

There are also a pile of our citizens in countries where they aren’t able to stay for one reason or another and who want to just get home. This is especially the case in Australia where the majority of our many citizens there are unable to access benefits from the Australian government with any degree of certainty. Many of our citizens there and in other countries around the world will not be able afford the flight costs, let alone a quarantine cost on top of it.

We also have a Bill of Rights Act that is pretty explicit (my italics).

18 Freedom of movement

(1) Everyone lawfully in New Zealand has the right to freedom of movement and residence in New Zealand.

(2) Every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand.

(3) Everyone has the right to leave New Zealand.

(4) No one who is not a New Zealand citizen and who is lawfully in New Zealand shall be required to leave New Zealand except under a decision taken on grounds prescribed by law.

NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990

We have absolutely no requirement to allow in non-citizens into the country. We mostly shouldn’t until the pandemic has subsided.

We must allow our destitute citizens to arrive if they can find transport here. The Peters and Crusher solution about charging everyone will run straight into court battles and massive amounts of expensive bureaucracy. After all people who left NZ last year or thirty years ago had absolutely no idea that they’d be hit with a massive accommodation bill to reenter their country of citizenship.

The solution of charging NZ citizens would wind up like ‘Crusher’ Collins cars – they never got crushed because the law was a complete fiasco of pointless dick waving rather than intelligence. See “Just three cars destroyed under ‘Crusher’ Collins’ law“. The fad of illegal racing faded long before the legislation got passed which is why the article quoted stats from 2001 – 8 years before

There is a balancing act for government between citizens who leave now and then return. Which is where this legislation is targeted.

We will need non-citizens to arrive with specialised skills who fix machinery and systems that we do not have skills or capacity ourselves. Mainframes, large engineering, specialised installations. Plus there are diplomats. A few other edge cases. We really don’t want to waste quarantine capacity on any other non-citizens.

Plus there are citizens who will really need to travel and come back. Mostly for really essential and specialised business. I’m in a engineering business where I would normally do that several times a year. Having a defined cost signal rather than a some kind of amorphous bureaucratic nonsense is very useful. It allows projects to have a clear cost / benefit. Same for citizens who have a compelling personal reason as well. Like a life threatening disease that they can source effective treatment for offshore.

Reading Luke Malpass opine (actually more like a petulant whine) and others this morning was a exercise in listening to critics. They could see the problems and the compromise. They didn’t offer anything useful to the debate.

I don’t particularly like the government compromise. I simply can’t think of anything better that would balance the competing needs. I also now have a certainty of the direct costs to balance direct needs when looking at possible project work offshore. As well as the couple of weeks in a hotel room programming for work, work will have to pay about $3k. I can add that on to the risks of a 61yo heading out into a covid-19 pandemic.

28 comments on “Quarantine costs – critics fruitlessly whine ”

  1. bloke 1

    part of the problem is that it appears life is normal here therefore it’s normal overseas, that and entitled selfishness

  2. Sacha 2

    the travel addicted who want to find a warm beach in the middle of winter

    For the wealthier of those, an extra 3k is nothing. No price signal.

    • lprent 2.1

      For the wealthier of those, an extra 3k is nothing. No price signal.

      Sure. But hanging around in a hotel for 2 weeks would be a complete drag for them. Especially if they can’t use their wealth to specify the kind of rooms. The advantage is that the combo between the cost and the accommodation will be simple deterrents to stupidity for people wanting to go go in and out of the country like a yo-yo.

      Going out for less than 90 days is something that is a easy bit of code to add to the border control. Way less of a problem than trying to get a big set of rules and bureaucrats. Less of a problem than trying to selectively throw out one bit of the bill of rights act or trying to retrospectively change laws.

      • Sacha 2.1.1

        Especially if they can’t use their wealth to specify the kind of rooms.

        Yes, and it was sweet of their mouthpieces in the NZ Initiative to propose that tweak for them.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    I don't mind the coalition compromise. I was baffled at how eager Labour was to copy National's policy so blatantly. It's as though Labour folk can't understand how to differentiate. Even though they are supposed to be marketing a different brand.

    Perhaps they ought to employ Homer Simpson as campaign consultant. He's a typical mainstreamer, target market.

    My daughter is still living in Melbourne with her Italian partner. They had both qualified as foreign language tutors, got visas to work in Japan, and had travel arranged when the pandemic hit them and their new jobs were cancelled.

    Those annual visits to parents they both did routinely are now non-viable. Fortunately they were able to resume jobs there but I haven't heard if those are impinged by the new lockdown yet. Definitely a new world for their late-thirties generation!

    • Sacha 3.1

      I was baffled at how eager Labour was to copy National's policy so blatantly.

      Weren't there articles about how the govt was working on this policy for weeks before the Nats proposed the same?

      • lprent 3.1.1

        There were. It seemed to be more of a case of an opposition party offering a half-baked unworkable solution to grab a headline.

        It was a no-brainer for Peters as it'd always be subject to watering down coalition agreements and NZF are way down in the polls. It was a win-win for a minor party.

        After National made their desperate grasp for a headline using an unworkable quarantine policy, I realised that they really weren't serious about even trying to be in government after the election.

      • Dennis Frank 3.1.2

        If so, I never saw them. I also haven't seen any media coverage of the principles driving the decision-making. I agree that folks who come & go from Aotearoa at whim ought to pay the cost due to being affluent enough that it will not be a problem for them.

        I also agree that those returning home from long-term stays overseas ought to be spared the quarantine cost. Nuanced policy-making like this seems sensible, but the impression I was getting from the media was that the govt was trying to do cost-recovery. Makes sense for National. Labour risked seeming heartless.

        • lprent

          I think that the real issue was that there was an absolute in the bill of rights that said anyone could exit and that nz citizens could always enter.

          If the government was giving the an absolute guarantee that they would pick up the whole of the cost of quarantine accommodation, it was a license for unlimited tourism offshore for NZ citizens if they were willing to sit around a luxury hotel for 2 weeks.

          The cost of a quick cheap hop to whatever destination was available and two weeks paid for quiet accommodation? Be worth it for me just to get some uninterrupted coding time. 😈

          Basically it was clearly open to abuse to not put in a cost recovery

          This legislation gives some fairly clear and easy to administer rules that allow a citizens to make more rational decisions with blocking the business and other travellers who can make a cost/benefit decision. It does it without the penalising people coming back from overseas from trip started before the pandemic.

  4. Sacha 4


    Some of it is about signalling that the Government is using the country’s collective resources wisely and thwarting free-loaders.

    But with September 19 looming, this decision seems to be more about being seen to be fair, rather than actually enacting a fair scheme.

    While the debate began under the guise of cost burdens and the prudent use of taxpayer funds, it’s become about values and a disagreement over what constitutes fairness.

  5. Shanreagh 5

    Reading Luke Malpass opine (actually more like a petulant whine) and others this morning was a exercise in listening to critics. They could see the problems and the compromise. They didn’t offer anything useful to the debate.

    Just finished reading this and then thought 'well, what was the point of that?' I like to read arguments for and against and this article was bereft and the comments above accurately describes it – 'a whine'.

    I wonder sometimes if his life depends on an income per line as some of his latest columns have the distinct feel of a gun for hire waffling out an argument.

  6. Tricledrown 6

    Mean spirited National a family returning could face a very large bill

    A family of 4 would pay $12,000 under National people returning to live in NZ will already face huge costs.At a time when jobs are disappearing overseas these people will be a valuable asset for NZ with there worldly skills most will add value to our economy.

    Are we going to abandon fellow New Zealanders overseas as the biggest crisis since WW2 hits the World we need to stick together and work as a team to beat this massive hit to our economy .

    National still don't get it this is not a time to be mean spirited compared to the amount wasted on dodgy fix ups in Canterbury $500 million to $1 billion leaky buildings $30 to $60 billion.South Canterbury Finance $1.2 billion for 700 National Pary supporters because Bill English forgot to renew the banking insurance policy.

  7. Just Is 7

    The "opinion piece" from stuff, is exactly that… "stuff", stuff you flush down the toilet when you've finished.

    Authors of this crap really should pull their heads out of the sand and get back into reality.

    The recommended changes and charges being applied to returnees is fair and responsible.

    The Coalition had been considering these charges long before the opposition parties put their oar in the water.

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I think the charging is a reasonable signal – could maybe do a bit for food or admin but probably more trouble than it's worth.

    But I do think they now need to prioritise "who" gets the quarantine slots. The UK has just extended visa's for those that can't get away and there will be kiwi's among them. Should it be up to the airlines who comes here and who does not – and why should the airline receive the" scarce seats because of quarantine limits" premium? More airlines want to fly here – do we say outwards only if there is already AirNZ on the route

    At this point do we need to prioritise citizens and within that group the single passport holder who has expired visa's overseas – if we can find who those people are? These people absolutely have no where else to go and need to get back. It seems to me that they should have greater priority over say relatives of mine who have lived overseas for many years can stay where they are and would only be wanting to live covid free?

    At 12,000 a month we are barely making a dent in the number who are likely to fall into dire straits overseas. Commentators want this used for holiday travel?

  9. Herodotus 9

    We also have a Bill of Rights Act that is pretty explicit (my italics).

    18 Freedom of movement

    (1) Everyone lawfully in New Zealand has the right to freedom of movement and residence in New Zealand.

    (2) Every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand.

    Our govt is already restricting those who HAVE A RIGHT. by limiting the inbound flights into NZ due to our limited quarantine capabilities.

    We have capacity for 7,000 over 2 weeks i.e. 100/day in to the facilities, so in 6 months time we can ONLY accomodate 18,000. If these freedoms are so important why is such a small fraction of overseas Kiwis being planed for.

    "There are also a pile of our citizens in countries where they aren’t able to stay for one reason or another and who want to just get home" BUT they cannot due to our GOVT restricting movement.


    • Herodotus 9.1

      Note a wee calculation error should be 500/day and 90,000 max in 6 months 🙁

  10. AB 10

    Boring and predictable:

    • Can't charge them all – will cause hardship and maybe illegal
    • Can't charge none – encourages voluntary travellers to freeload
    • Have to charge some and not others – cue endless whining about where the boundaries are drawn

    Thus the team of 5 million descends into BAU-style bickering because BAU means endlessly looking for ways to dodge obligations, to gain sneaky advantages over other people, and to accumulate/protect wealth. Wasn't lockdown (comparatively) pleasant? You know, when we waved at neighbours out walking and stuff like that.

  11. Drowsy M. Kram 11

    "Wasn't lockdown (comparatively) pleasant?" yes yes

  12. novacastrian 12

    A complete cluster to say the least, the PM is made to look like an Australian Premier by charging, just more disorganised.

    Its either lawful or unlawful under the Bill of Rights, it's really that simple, so why is the PM making herself look incompetent by writing legislation so complex and confusing, it's difficult to identify who is actually charged.

    Either everybody pays or nobody pays, with this being retrospective to all who've been forced into quarantine.

    Not a good look Jacinda, its playing right into Judith's hands

  13. Sparky 13

    Of course there are Australians living here who might want to go home to see family or people in general with sick or dying relatives who need to travel.

    This is just nasty neo liberal Labour and National trying to score brownie points with middle class conservatives who despise the idea of Socialism.

    Guess when we think "left" these days its mostly just the Greens who we can thank for at least watering down all this user pays ugliness down.

    [Please stick to one user name, thanks – Incognito]

  14. Chris T 14

    I have mixed feelings about this whole policy now.

    I thought at one stage if you left after Covid and come back you should pay, if you were already over seas and had no knowledge of what was about to happen and needed to come back then not.

    Basically Labour's policy. And good on them for it.

    But having second thoughts and it seems a bit pandering to rednecks now (Yes I just said I agreed with it earlier).

    It will bring in piss all and the admin is probably stupid amounts.

    Think they were on a lose lose no matter what they did.

    I get the argument that people coming back haven't paid tax, but then they haven't used any.

    Edit: Should add Nationals everyone pays policy is incredibly dim.

  15. Rockin Robin 15

    Citizens returning to NZ from Australia have probly lost their jobs. No benefits for Kiwis. They'd be at the lower end of the wealth spectrum, so a quarantine fee could be very difficult for them. Exempt them, to do otherwise would be inhumane.

    If they're wealthy others who bought a passport under John Key, charge them at least double.

    Means test, means test, means test. And means test pensions, too.

    By the way, did Govt. negotiate a good rate from desperate hotel owners?

    Did Andrew Little refuse to give Scenic Hotels any quarantine customers, seeing as they tried to sue him?

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