New Zealand First wants quarantine shifted to military facilities to reduce costs and is calling for a long-term alternative to lockdowns.
The political party released its new quarantine policy on Wednesday outlining how it wants to prepare New Zealand for future pandemics, emphasising the need to consider investment in alternative managed isolation facilities.
"Continuing to shut down Auckland due to COVID-19 breaching quarantine is a risk to community's health and the wider economy," the policy says.
It proposes moving quarantine into one or more existing military facilities, and options include the military camp at Waiouru in the North Island, the Ohakea camp at Manawatu and the Burnham military camp in Christchurch.
Managed isolation facilities are currently run by the Government in hotels. The reason the hotels are chosen is because they have separate bathrooms to keep people distanced.
NZ First is proposing that New Zealand Defence Force personnel be posted on long-term operational rotations which would minimise movement in and out of quarantine facilities.
"We will build extra temporary and/or longer-term infrastructure construction - prefabricated buildings, facilities, and processing assets," NZ First's policy says.
The political party believes the costs of quarantine to Government are "astronomical".
Newshub revealed earlier this month that half-a-billion-dollars set aside to pay for the costs of the managed isolation facilities for the rest of the year will not be enough despite the Government introducing a charging system.
"A fraction would instead be invested into the set-up and the running of military facilities," the NZ First policy says, adding that quarantine would be run and operated by the Defence Force and police.
It comes as the Government has come under fire since Newshub revealed last week that one week before the outbreak in Auckland, more than 60 percent of all border and hotel isolation workers in the city had never been tested.
"The point has been reached where my party says the approach has to change," NZ First leader Winston Peters said in a speech in Parliament on Wednesday.
"It is the view of New Zealand First that this is not a viable way to continue. We are calling for a single agency to be created with a clear-eyed focus on border control."
Peters wants a new 'Border Protection Force' reporting to one senior Cabinet minister, who in turn reports to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
"Patchwork responses and blurred responsibilities must be rejected. Clear lines of accountability will be drawn-up, speed of response will be measured, and most importantly accountability measures established."
Testing of border-facing workers is now mandatory, and an additional 500 defence personnel are being deployed to the 32 managed isolation facilities to strengthen protections against community COVID-19 spread.
ACT leader David Seymour has accused Peters of "headline hunting and grandstanding" with the release of NZ First's new policy.
"If a new border protection force is 'a major priority' for Mr Peters, he should have said so in Cabinet, maybe just once in the past six months," Seymour said on Wednesday.
"If Mr Peters' idea has merit, why didn't the Government he's been part of for three years take it seriously? Perhaps he never raised it? Once again, it is too little too late from a man who's had his day."
Seymour believes it's time to consider solutions to the challenge of living safely with COVID-19.
ACT has recommended a Taiwanese-style 'Central Epidemic Command Centre' that integrates not only the border but all public health management including the management of outbreaks within the border.