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Speech: New Zealand First Announces A New Border Protection Force

The latest COVID outbreak means nothing is the same anymore.

We again all have to live with the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are real lessons to be learnt.

We can hope for a worldwide vaccine but will not be enough for any future pandemic variations or new viruses.

We live in an interconnected world.

Our response is critical.

The government has a duty to save lives. And a duty to protect the economy, with all the jobs, and general welfare which springs from it.

The power the government deploys to do so comes down to our bureaucratic arrangements.

When the government bureaucracy is effective, the response is effective. And we win the support and cooperation of our five million citizens when effective.

If there is question to be asked from the past week about the renewed COVID spread, and corresponding lock-downs, then the question is this – does the government have the best possible agency arrangement to fight these outbreaks?

This is not a criticism of the valiant efforts of our frontline staff and emergency workers.

This is a call by my party for a new border security policy.

My party is calling for the creation of a new Border Protection Force.

A new centralised Force to focus our government efforts in a single line of attack.

The task

Its task will be to coordinate the protection of our borders from pandemic and biosecurity incursions.

Our lives and economy depend on it.

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Consolidation of effort is called for.

Take the recent case of an infected worker at a quarantine facility.

And what did we see?

A press conference from a Minister of Health and a Secretary General of Health on the outbreak, a press conference from a Housing Minister and an Air Commodore on the quarantines, and a Prime Minister answering questions in parliament on lockdowns, and what happened when.

Behind it all is a massive blend of government agencies, taskforces, and central agencies, with over-lapping roles.

A genuine question has been posed. We can’t shy away from it.

Did one arm of government know what the other arm of government was doing, or not doing?

The point has been reached where my party says the approach has to change.

It is the view of New Zealand First that this is not a viable way to continue.

We are calling for a single agency to be created with a clear-eyed focus on border control.

A new Border Protection Force reporting to one senior Cabinet Minister, who in turn reports to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The NZ Border Force would have its roles, responsibilities, and obligations of this agency clearly set out.

Patchwork responses and blurred responsibilities must be rejected.

Clear lines of accountability will be drawn-up, speed of response will be measured, and most importantly accountability measures established.

This Force (NZBF) will combine functions of:

· The New Zealand Defence Force.

· the New Zealand Customs Service, and

· the immigration detention and compliance functions of Immigration New Zealand, which would be extended and strengthened.

These Border Force Officers would be given the powers to do their job properly.

New Quarantine Policy

As a country, if we are to be serious about preparation for future pandemics we need to consider investment in alternative managed isolation facilities.

The realities:

· Currently we have Covid-19 coming into the most populated city in the country and quarantined within the central city - with security and staff that come in and out of the facilities with potential to spread through community.

· Need for safer, long-term alternative. Continuing to shut down Auckland due to Covid-19 breaching quarantine is a risk to community’s health and the wider economy.

· We propose to move quarantine location into one or more existing military facilities, and the options include:

- Waiouru – Main Camp and/or Helwan Camp

- Manawatu – Ohakea Camp

- Christchurch – Burnham Camp Area, West Melton Training Area,

· NZDF personnel would be posted on long-term operational rotations – which would minimise movement in/out of quarantine facilities.

· We will built extra temporary and/or longer term infrastructure construction – prefabricated buildings, facilities, and processing assets.

· Current costs of quarantine to government are astronomical. A fraction would instead be invested into the set-up and the running of military facilities.

· All accomplished in stepped processing and movement of all new people entering quarantine into military controlled quarantine facilities – as constructed, as operation implemented, and personnel numbers managed.

· Quarantine planned, run and operated by NZDF with assistance from NZ Police.

Pandemics move swiftly. They offer no room for error, and a government must be at its very best to beat a pandemic.

This nation has responded well in the past, but we must examine every option and take every step to respond better in the future.

For that reason New Zealand First would make the creation of a new Border Protection Force a major priority.

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