National is calling for the Hamilton isolation absconders to foot the cost of not only their hotel stay, but the money spent on catching them.
A 37-year-old woman and her four kids left the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton just before 7pm on Friday night, before finding out the results of their application for compassionate leave. They were here from Australia to attend a funeral on Saturday.
"We can understand their grief, but we cannot allow one tragedy to turn into a tragedy for hundreds," said minister in charge Megan Woods.
Four of them were caught less than an hour later, while a teenager made it all the way to Auckland before being detained early on Saturday morning.
"We committed a considerable number of resources, including the Eagle helicopter, to our search for the young man overnight," said Assistant Commissioner Scott Fraser.
The National Party, which wants to charge all arrivals up to $3000 each for their stays in isolation or quarantine, says the family should pay up.
"Having recognised the rights of New Zealanders and residents to return home and be provided quarantine facilities, why should the taxpayer bear the cost of absconders' reckless behaviour?" asked COVID-19 border response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee.
"There should be no tolerance for the risk of community transmission that they pose. While we don't know the relationships of the Hamilton 5, we do know getting them back into quarantine cost hundreds of police and quarantine officials' hours, as well as the helicopter costs.
"The absconders should pay up and a cost order should be sought."
He said breakouts like this make the threat of regional lockdowns "very real".
Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern detailed how regional lockdowns would work should there be a localised outbreak, hoping to prevent another nationwide order to stay home.
"It is designed to give the public, and our business community as much certainty as we can around what to expect if new cases inside our borders are found. And that is something we all must prepare for."
New Zealand has had no new cases of COVID-19 outside of isolation or quarantine facilities since May, and the Government's successful strategy to eliminate the disease has drawn international praise.
But Brownlee said they are now failing to "secure the border".
All of the Hamilton five except the 12-year-old have been charged with intentionally failing to comply with an order made under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.