Coronavirus: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern distances herself from Winston Peters' 'go home' comments to migrants

Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters in Parliament.
Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters in Parliament. Photo credit: Getty

The Prime Minister has distanced herself from the deputy Prime Ministers claim that migrant workers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown should just "go home".

In a press conference on Wednesday Jacinda Ardern said she prefers to take a "compassionate approach" rather than Deputy PM Winston Peters' brusque response.

Her comments follow Peters' interview with Newstalk ZB where he said foreign nationals had been told "you have to go home, the whole world has changed".

"All I'd say to the people is, do you really think it's fair, when you don't have a right to be in the country beyond the time your visa says, for you to say, 'I've made a choice this is my home now'?"

Ardern's response is drastically different to that of her deputy.

"Many of those workers would not have had a chance to make those decisions [to go home]," she said.

"Things happened very quickly, some will have lost their jobs at a point when it would not have been possible to make any other plans, which is why we've always said we have to take a compassionate approach."

Thousands of migrants including those on working and tourist visas were trapped when the country entered level 4 lockdown. In the aftermath of the lockdown, their plight became heard. 

With tourism heavily impacted by New Zealand's border control, workers in tourist hot spot Queenstown say they are in trouble.

About 9000 requests for assistance have been made to the Queenstown Lakes District Council, Mayor Jim Boult says.

Migrant worker Lucy Bateman, originally from the UK, said she now called New Zealand her home.

Bateman said the UK looked like a "shambles" and was glad to be in New Zealand.

"I've seen a lot of people write, you know, 'just go home' on Facebook posts.

"We have built our home here and our community here and it's not just as easy to go home."