Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tried not once, but twice, to get emergency spot in MIQ

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tried not once, but twice, to get an emergency spot in managed isolation, the first time as a "critical public or health service" and the second time as "required for national security". 

In a written parliamentary response to National MP Chris Bishop, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that both applications for an emergency spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) were declined. 

Menéndez March spent two weeks in 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. 

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. 

Spaces in MIQ are currently "extremely limited" due to high demand, according to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which oversees MIQ operations. The MIQ website shows spaces booked until May. 

The written response from Hipkins shows Menéndez March first applied for an emergency spot in MIQ on January 13 under category 2b. 

It's 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 health infrastructure. 

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

"It is extraordinary chutzpah for a new MP to claim they are critical to delivering public health services, or critical for national security. It just beggars belief," Bishop told Newshub. "The emergency MIQ allocation is not meant to be for MPs trying it on to come home."

Menéndez March told Newshub he applied for the category thinking he would qualify as a public servant. 

Menéndez March told RNZ's Morning Report earlier this month he was "rightfully declined" an emergency spot in MIQ. He tried his luck by submitting an application, despite Kiwis across the globe desperately trying to get home.  

"The emergency voucher is one that many New Zealanders apply and one that I was rightfully declined as most people who apply are. I was exploring the avenues that were possible and ended up using the MIQ website like everybody else does," he said.

"I think it's reasonable that people have an opportunity to apply and I think I was very grateful that I was given no special treatment and that my application was simply sought on the merits of it."

Menéndez March said he did not have a space in MIQ booked before he travelled to Mexico, meaning he could have been stuck there for months, missing out on a large chunk of the parliamentary year as a new MP. 

"The MIQ spot was secured a few days beforehand. It took several hours of collective refreshing... and this is something that many people go through," he said. "MIQ spaces open up on a regular basis based on cancellations."