Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March defends applying twice for emergency MIQ spot as Judith Collins calls for answers

National leader Judith Collins is calling for answers after Newshub revealed Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tried not once, but twice, to get an emergency spot in managed isolation. 

Menéndez March recently spent two weeks in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) after spending seven weeks in Mexico to be with his father who underwent major surgery and his step mum who has been battling breast cancer. 

In a written parliamentary response to National MP Chris Bishop, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that the Green MP made two separate applications, the first as a "critical public or health service" and the second as "required for national security".  

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson say Menéndez March sought approval to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and followed the correct procedure - but questions were raised about why he sought an emergency spot in MIQ. 

"I think it's the applying twice and claiming to be critical to New Zealand, one in national security and the other one as a critical health worker," Collins said. "I'm not sure that he's either and I think there's some questions that need to be asked."

Menéndez March told Newshub all New Zealanders can apply for emergency spots in MIQ and that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - which oversees MIQ - "rightly" declined both of his applications. 

He first applied on January 13 under category 2b, reserved for people whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential infrastructure. 

Menéndez March said he applied for the category thinking he'd qualify as a public servant. 

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March.
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March. Photo credit: Newshub

He also applied for a second time on January 15, under category 2d, for Kiwis and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons. 

"I think MBIE does a really fair and thorough assessment of whether people meet those criteria and it was rightfully declined. I think it's really important that MBIE has those strict assessment processes to judge those applications," Menéndez March told Newshub. 

"I think any New Zealander has a right to make an application in the different streams that exist and like I said I'm really happy that MBIE sought due process to see the merits of the application itself.

"People are able to seek leave in any workplace. I'm really happy and thankful that my parliamentary colleagues, as well as the public, have shown a lot of understanding and compassion for the time that I took off to spend time with my family."

Shaw wasn't aware Menéndez March made the applications under those categories. He said he wouldn't classify the Green MP as essential for national security. 

"No, and clearly the people who were issuing the permits would say the same thing."

Shaw said he would only be concerned if "any undue influence was applied" or if Menéndez March was given special treatment, and "clearly he wasn't". 

"My understanding is he, like a lot of New Zealanders, applied for all of the channels that were available to him."

Shaw said earlier this month MBIE chief Carolyn Tremain phoned him in mid-January to inquire about Menéndez March's MIQ emergency application. Shaw said he told her that under no circumstances should he receive any special treatment. 

Spaces in MIQ are currently "extremely limited" due to high demand, according to MBIE. The MIQ website shows spaces booked until May.