Business group says Government should reprioritise the MIQ slots

The Government should prioritise managed isolation slots for workers looking to return to New Zealand from overseas, Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett says.

“No one is arguing with Government’s decision to keep us safe and keep Delta out but shutting down the transtasman for the next couple of months does not mean our world should stop,” he said.

“It was time Immigration acknowledged the important role of business and allocated MIQ slots for NZ businesses who have personnel who are required offshore and then need to return,” he said.

In mid-June, the Herald reported only 60 managed isolation quarantine spaces a month are available for overseas construction workers classified as “critical”, which one building boss said was “ridiculous” in a sector short by more than 50,000 workers.

At the time Andrew Moore, commercial manager at Auckland-headquartered CMP Construction, said the sector was crying out for more skilled migrants.

“With Covid and shut borders, it’s become much worse,” Moore said.

Such restricted MIQ facilities made a mockery of any Government attempts to ease big builders’ problems, he said.

Barnett said today the Government needs to acknowledge that for some NZ businesses to maintain local workforces they need to be offshore to maintain order levels and supply chains.

“NZ has built its economy on international trade and they need to be part of the border management, not a sacrifice,” he said.

Barnett said planning around vaccinating people, especially those who need to travel was also crucial.

“We also need to be planning how to treat vaccinated individuals differently – the purpose of vaccination was to protect, so with the investment, we are making in vaccination it’s time to think differently about those who need to travel and are vaccinated,” Barnett said.

“We could use MIQ slots differently and introduce other quarantine options to prioritise movement in and out of the country of those people contributing productively to the economy creating jobs, capabilities, investment and new sectors.

“All they need is to do their bit to keep all of us safe with proof of vaccination plus negative departure and arrival tests,” Barnett said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that 21,000 New Zealanders had left for Australia since the transtasman bubble opened and had not come back.

On Friday she announced the travel bubble would be on hold for at least eight weeks as Australia grappled with a growing number of Covid cases.

Ardern acknowledged the “devastating” impact the Australian Covid outbreak was having on people’s lives and said she would not risk the hard work put in by the team of 5 million by keeping the bubble open when the risk was high from the Delta variant.

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