One of New Zealand's largest managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) providers has denied reports it will stop providing accommodation for recent returnees, telling Newshub it's "committed to assisting the Government" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Stuff report on Tuesday afternoon claimed Sudima Hotels, whose facilities make up one-seventh of the 4500 rooms provided to Kiwis returning from overseas, was considering not renewing its MIQ contracts due to abuse of staff and concerns about damage to its reputation.
The hotel chain's MIQ contracts will expire at the end of April. Stuff cites its chief operating officer Les Morgan as telling it a decision on staying on as a MIQ provider heading into May "hung in the balance".
"We haven't heard from the Government if the contracts will be rolled over or not, but we are kind of in that space of no-man's land," he's quoted as saying. "We haven't reached a decision at all."
Stuff also reported that its three MIQ hotels are offering to take public bookings from May, following a week-long deep clean.
However Sudima says any suggestions it is looking to withdraw from its current contracts with the Government have been "incorrectly reported".
"The current contracts are due to end on 31 April 2021 (sic), after which the hotels may once again re-open to the public," a spokesperson told Newshub.
"Despite the challenges of operating MIQ facilities, Sudima Hotels is committed to assisting the Government with the repatriation of New Zealanders.
"If the hotels are required to operate as MIQ facilities beyond the current contracted dates, it is likely to continue to do so under renewed contracts with the Government. New contracts are yet to be formalised."
It was reported Sudima was considering not renewing its contracts because it had garnered some negative press last year.
The most notable example of this is when it hosted hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian mariners at its Christchurch hotel - dozens of whom would later test positive for coronavirus. A Canterbury DHB report found chain-smoking and double-bunking in confined spaces at the MIQ facility had contributed to the spread of the disease.
Morgan told Stuff wellbeing of staff was also a factor in contract renewal talks. This follows reports of abuse and staff being threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic, culminating in police being notified on several occasions.
"Staff were getting photographed when leaving the premises, abused on Facebook and refused service in restaurants and bars. That's been consistent right through the last 12 months," he said.
"You would be surprised how many people in the community you would think are reasonably bright and educated that make assumptions about what's going on in these hotels."
Morgan said he is expecting the Government to contact Sudima in the next two weeks regarding contract renewals.