NZ Election 2020: Let rich tourists pay to use isolation facilities - ACT

New Zealand is already taking risks allowing Kiwis to return, so why not rich Americans, ACT says. A Southland tourism operator says it's a bold move, but won't get the industry back on its feet.

ACT leader David Seymour announced the party's tourism policy at an event at the Te Anau Club on Monday night, calling for privately run managed isolation facilities, and allowing rich foreigners to pay to use them for a New Zealand holiday.

He told the more than 70 locals it should be an objective within two months of the new government to find ways to get tourists in.

"If we start asking how, then I think in a few months it's possible because there's also people in the education sector who have plans to do this but Government simply isn't talking and facilitating them. We have an approach based on fear rather than innovation."

He says the Government should set the rules of the game and enforce them, but need not be the operator of managed isolation facilities.

"The question is, if we have good rules and good public health can we actually have a better version of both worlds and I think it's possible to balance those risks and actually ... eat our cake and have it too.

"Let's be honest, we're still letting hundreds of New Zealand passport holders and residents into the country each day. What is fundamentally biologically different with those people, from people who may not have a New Zealand passport?"

"Surely we're prepared to take other risks as well, including those that could save the livelihoods of many industries including tourism, education and those industries that require specific skilled workers."

Ray Horrell, who owns Fiordland Tours and Hire Services and also works in hospitality, says although the ACT policy is "bold" he's sceptical about how much of a difference it would make.

"To come in and be quarantined for two weeks? Let's make it available but don't hold your breath. It's not going to bring tourism in New Zealand back on its feet, expecting people to come and be quarantined for two weeks.

"Something like that may be attractive for some people ... that's fine but the numbers that are going to be able to do that at the moment in the foreseeable future is going to be quite slight I think."

He says they are appreciative of the support from New Zealanders who would not normally visit, but there simply are not enough New Zealanders to share round.

The virus is something New Zealand has to live with, he says, and the country should be doing anything it can to get the borders open.

"At the moment, tourism, hospitality industry is dead and we in Te Anau are seriously affected by that .... unless we have foreigners coming back in - I don't think we need to rush it either, I think we've got to be pretty careful about it, so I say it's living with it.

"There's hotels that have closed down, there's tourism operators just dead on their feet, there's buses all around New Zealand sitting in big paddocks just not being used. There's just not enough to go round."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Former Milford Helicopters owner Jeff Shanks says the scheme to bring in rich foreigners is a good one.

"The economy's got to start moving some time ... if you have a managed group as he suggested it's a good idea, it'll start the economy."

He says it would have to be in private facilities to make it work.

"The more affluent Americans don't want to stay in a government facility."

He says the move overnight to lower alert levels will not mean much of a change for Te Anau.

"I guess it's a bit of a help but it's not a major change ... we haven't got any of it [COVID-19] down here, like, they've been observing the restrictions but the people haven't been here anyway."

The ACT policy also calls for a three-year moratorium on minimum wage increases, bringing back 90-day trials, cutting GST to 10 percent for a year, abolishing the $35 conservation and tourism levy and banning bed taxes.

National's tourism spokesperson did not respond to calls and Labour's tourism spokesperson declined to comment on the policy.

Later this morning National are announcing their own plan for gradually opening the border, which would allow a staged reopening with an initial focus on family reunification and critical workers.

The government announced two weeks ago its own easing of restrictions to allow some partners of citizens and residents into the country, as well as some temporary work visa holders.

With less than four weeks until the election, political parties are not only grappling with how to campaign within COVID restrictions, but how to return the country to some semblance of normal in the future.