Kiwi deportees from Australia with "plenty of money for gold-plated motorbikes" should be charged for managed isolation when they arrive in New Zealand, says National leader Judith Collins.
The National Party revealed on Sunday that if it wins the September election, arrivals will be charged a fixed fee from October 3 to partially meet the costs of their managed isolation at facilities currently fully state-funded.
A $3000 fee would apply to single adults with an additional charge of $1000 per adult and $500 per child. National's COVID-19 border response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee confirmed that Kiwi deportees from Australia wouldn't be let off.
Collins, who became National Party leader last week following the sudden resignation of Todd Muller, said it's only fair that deportees pay towards their managed isolation because they may have accumulated money from illegal ventures.
"Some of them seem to have made a lot of money off various things including drugs, so they can start paying some of it to us," Collins told Magic Talk on Monday.
She appeared to make a dig at deportees from Australia involved in the Comanchero gang, who are often pictured posing next to motorbikes plated with what appears to be gold.
"The fact is, some of these people coming back in under the deportation from Australia have a tremendous amount of access to cash - they seem to have plenty of money for gold-plated motorbikes and the like."
Thirty Kiwi deportees arrived in New Zealand from Australia last week for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and are undergoing two weeks of state-funded managed isolation at a hotel in Auckland.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins blasted Australia for sending them back during a pandemic, describing it as "not New Zealand's problem", but he said the Government worked constructively with Australia to make sure it went smoothly.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday the Government has not yet decided on charging arrivals to New Zealand, and she said deportees are often being sent back against their will.
"Ultimately those are individuals that are coming back to New Zealand against their own desires and against New Zealand's desires, as well," Ardern said.
"We haven't made final decisions and if there were to be a co-payment arrangement we would have to work through that detail. But I think they are a group of individuals who aren't always choosing to be in the circumstances they're in."
The Prime Minister also opposed the National Party putting a date on when they would start charging for managed isolation because it could spark a rush of returnees.
"Ultimately, what we have to make sure we are doing at present is managing the flow of returning New Zealanders and permanent residents in New Zealand such that we can be assured that our quarantine regime can manage the large number of individuals wanting to come home.
"If you put a date on and then tell everyone to rush back, that potentially undermines your facilities, and we cannot afford that in New Zealand."
Ardern said there are a number of legal issues attached to charging for managed isolation at the border because Kiwis have a right to return home.
"When we make a decision we'll make sure it's one we can stand by."
Collins said the Bill of Rights Act won't get in the way of charging people for managed isolation because it's "not so supreme that other laws can't basically override it".
"I just think New Zealanders want us to have a proper plan and they want us to keep them safe and they don't want to be taken for a ride."
The minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine, Megan Woods, said on Sunday she welcomed National's decision support for a policy to charge returnees.
"As we have made clear on numerous occasions, we are working through policy options on a cost recovery scheme," Dr Woods said.
"This requires detailed investigation to ensure that any cost recovery system is fair and equitable, and is balanced with the legal rights of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents to come back home."