An Auckland richlister who wants to travel by private jet to the US for an important business meeting then self-isolate on his return at his gated home is taking a landmark legal challenge against the country’s MIQ system.
Entrepreneur Murray Bolton, 73, is the director of US-based company Xplor Technologies and his wealth is estimated to be more than $500 million.
In a test case being heard in the High Court at Auckland, he will argue he needs to attend a critical two-day board meeting next month in Boston to promote New Zealand’s economic interests, and that he would be disadvantaged if forced to participate remotely by Zoom.
He and his partner, Wati Talei Zoing, say they are fully vaccinated, plan to isolate in their large, gated Herne Bay home on their return and are happy to undergo all necessary Covid-19 testing.
They also argued they would travel by private jet to avoid exposure to the deadly Delta variant at public airport terminals or on commercial passenger flights.
Given the nightmare lottery system for MIQ spaces, which has seen tens of thousands of desperate Kiwis vying for one of the limited mandatory isolation spots on offer, the couple sought an MIQ exemption last month.
They argued it was crucial that Bolton appear at the Xplor board meeting in person to discuss the company’s imminent public listing and importance of the firm’s New Zealand operations.
But their application was refused and Bolton then engaged a legal team headed by high-profile barrister John Billington, QC, to launch a legal challenge.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) chief executive Carolyn Tremain, and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins are named as respondents.
The couple are seeking a judicial review of MBIE’s decision to reject their application to self-isolate at home, arguing mandatory 14-day isolation at MIQ facilities unreasonably limits citizens’ freedom of movement and breaches the Bill of Rights Act.
Although double vaccinated, the couple argue they are more likely to be exposed to the virus in an MIQ facility than at their own home – a concern given Bolton’s age – and the Government already allows higher-risk people who have contracted the virus to self-isolate.
They also argue MIQ exemptions have been allocated to seasonal horticulture workers, international flight crew and even the Wallabies rugby team.
They believe the decision to decline their exemption was an error of law and MBIE should be required to consider the social and economic benefit their application could deliver.
It is understood Kiwi business leader Sir Ralph Norris is supporting the couple’s application by affidavit, arguing it was preferable for New Zealand-based directors promoting domestic economic interests to meet face to face with their international counterparts, rather than electronically.
Bolton,a former Brierley Investments and Skellerup chief executive,declined to comment yesterday when approached by the Herald.
MBIE, Hipkins and the Ministry of Health also declined to comment as the matter was before the court.
The Government is currently rolling out a pilot project for business people returning from international trips to self-isolate as New Zealand prepares to reopen to the world.
The legal proceeding comes as thousands of Kiwis are struggling to return home to see family, sick loved ones or attend funerals for close relatives.
And as the Delta outbreak takes hold, there has been growing frustration that hundreds of people infected with Covid are being allowed to isolate at home but fully vaccinated travellers who have tested negative are still required to undergo 14 days in MIQ.
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