Government wanted to get border management right before considering charging returning New Zealanders - Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says before working out how much the Government could charge returning New Zealanders for their managed isolation, it wanted to make sure the quarantine system itself was working properly.

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, Ardern said the question of whether returnees should pay was a "secondary issue".

"It is something that we're working through now but we haven't pre-determined the outcome of that," she told host Duncan Garner.

The National Party announced on Saturday that if elected, it would change returning adults $3000 each for managed isolation. Megan Woods, the minister in charge of managed isolation, has said she welcomes that proposal.

Ardern said on Tuesday that legally citizens have a right to return home.

"That's something that we have to factor in. On the flip-side, quarantine is coming at a significant cost to taxpayers," she said.

She acknowledged that there were different circumstances for different returnees.   

"[The] most important thing, though, is that quarantine exists - that it continues to be robust 

and tight, and we continue to use our borders as a line of defence."

Ardern said the Government has prioritised the management of quarantine facilities, which have come under scrutiny several times due to people escaping, one of whom had COVID-19. Compassionate exemptions were also suspended after two women were allowed to leave quarantine without being tested first. It was later revealed they had coronavirus.

"You will have seen that we have had large spikes in the number of people coming home so [we're] working through the management of those numbers," Ardern said.

"Secondly, we'll then be working through the cost part. So it's actually that we've just prioritised the most important thing which is protecting New Zealander's health." 

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee told Magic Talk on Monday that New Zealanders should pay for their managed isolation. 

"People coming back to New Zealand,  having lived overseas for a time or for whatever reason been away for so long, have to pay their dues to the team of five million who have got the country into such good shape."

Ardern said the Government would continue working through the legal ramifications around charging people.

"There are legal questions - you'll know we've been discussing this for some time.

"These are things that Crown Law has methodically been working through but these are decisions that will be made in fairly short order."