Coronavirus: Investigation launched into managed isolation booking system following hundreds of complaints to Chief Ombudsman

The Chief Ombudsman is launching an investigation into the managed isolation and quarantine booking (MIQ) system after receiving hundreds of complaints.

Peter Boshier says many of the approximately 200 complaints came from people around the world having difficulties getting vouchers for sports in MIQ, or have concerns about the booking system overall.

"The complaints fit into four broad categories - they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.

"One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform."

Boshier says he's told the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - the agency in charge of MIQ - of his intention to investigate.

He also gives the public reassurance the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should.

"While I could investigate each of these complaints, in turn, I don't believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together," Boshier says.

"When a new complaint comes in, my team will assess whether it should be addressed as part of this investigation or investigated and resolved individually."

He will continue to monitor the wider MIQ system to see if any other interventions may be needed, but he acknowledges the system was set up quickly in response to an immediate crisis

"Border restrictions, along with managed isolation and quarantine facilities, are going to be a fact of life for some time to come," Boshier says.

"I want to find out how MBIE is responding to these concerns and whether it has a robust plan in place for allocating places in the coming months and years. If there is not, I will recommend it makes improvements."

Boshier says since this will be a broad investigation, it won't directly result in anyone being given a voucher right now or given priority in the queue.

"My message to anyone wanting space is to continue to use the existing channels. If you believe that you meet the criteria for an emergency allocation, you should apply for it in the usual way. 

"Otherwise, you should continue to seek a place through the virtual lobby."

He adds he aims to report to Parliament on his substantive findings early next year.

"However, my investigation will need to be responsive. I may make statements on my findings at different stages rather than waiting to publish them at the very end."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

ACT leader David Seymour says it isn't surprising Boshier is investigating the "shonky" MIQ booking system.

"There are thousands of Kiwis trying to return home to their own country. Many are separated from their family, desperate to be with dying loved ones, trying to attend funerals and just wanting to come home to their own country," Seymour says.

"Hundreds of complaints describe the system as unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed."

Seymour says if someone is double vaccinated and has tested negative for COVID-19, they should be able to self-isolate at home.

"The Government will let someone with COVID isolate at home. COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said that someone who is double vaccinated and tested negative is extremely unlikely to have COVID, so why can't they isolate at home?

"It's time the Government realised we are a team of 6 million. There are a million off-shore Kiwis who call New Zealand home who have been disowned by the Government. 

"Let's stop the Hunger Games."