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MBIE Responds To Ombudsman Report

MIQ was a critical part of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. It was established at pace, in an operationally complex and fast-moving environment to protect New Zealanders from a largely unknown, rapidly evolving, and deadly virus.

MIQ enabled almost 230,000 travellers to safely return home and cared for over 5,000 community cases. It was responsible for stopping more than 4,600 cases of COVID-19 at the border – at a time where just one case entering the community could have compromised our collective efforts to eliminate the virus. The decision to establish MIQ was one of the hardest parts of the pandemic, but it saved tens of thousands of lives.

The scale of the MIQ system, and speed at which it was set up is unprecedented in New Zealand’s history.

As the global pandemic unfolded, the effectiveness of decision-making in times of crisis depended on the ability to make sense of constantly changing information. MBIE is confident that it provided a high standard of advice to Ministers on the operation of MIQ given the challenging environment.

The need for urgent decisions resulted in an iterative policy process and traversed significantly complex issues and as such, whilst MIQ was in operation MBIE operated under a policy of constant improvement, there were several reviews of the system and MBIE feedback from several areas including the Office of the Ombudsman, users of MIAS, and more recently the findings of the Grounded Kiwis Judicial Review.

This feedback was used throughout the lifetime of MIQ to help inform policy and improve the system – in total over 200 technology improvements were made to MIAS.

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Regardless, MBIE acknowledges that the allocation system was not perfect and that some people were unable to secure a place in MIQ whilst in extremely challenging circumstances. MBIE further acknowledges that due to the speed and urgency with which MIAS was developed meant that there was not the kind of consultation that would ordinarily have taken place when dealing with our Treaty partner/tangata whenua and specific groups, including people with disabilities. The lack of engagement and adequate consultation during this process was less than ideal and MBIE has since made considerable efforts to engage with iwi/Māori to ensure the system responded appropriately to their concerns. MBIE also undertook several accessibility reviews in order to improve the system for those with disabilities.

Whilst the last guests may have departed MIQ in June and the hotels all handed back to their owners, MBIE has continued to explore a range of policies as well as operational and technology solutions to help improve the allocations process should New Zealand ever find itself required to implement a similar quarantine type arrangement for border arrivals. This work is still ongoing.

MBIE welcomes the Ombudsman’s investigation as well as the recently announced Royal Commission of Inquiry into the COVID-19 response and will ensure that any further lessons learned are incorporated into this ongoing work.

MBIE MIQ General Manager Shayne Gray

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