Managed isolation could be expanded by about 3000 rooms but Government has chosen not to

The Government could increase managed isolation by about an extra 3000 rooms making space to reunite families and bring home stranded Kiwis, but it's choosing not to open them.

Cameron Conradie and his wife risked everything to move to New Zealand from South Africa. They quit long-term teaching jobs, sold their house and rehomed the dogs. But Conradie is in New Zealand alone.

"The mental strain is significant," he told Newshub. 

Separated from his wife and son, he's unable to get the usual partnership visa because the borders shut in the wake of COVID-19. 

"I got into work every day to teach New Zealand children and it is really difficult to remain positive when my own child and my wife are locked out," Conradie said. 

It's a similar story to hundreds of critical healthcare workers split from their families.

And there's a fix to reunite them: about two dozen managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) hotels good to go - that's around 3000 extra rooms.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi admits it could help ease the strain on the border.  

"Of course we could," he said, when asked if opening up a few more MIQ facilities could enable the Government to bring in more families. 

Of course they could - but they're not.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which is responsible for MIQ, says 55 facilities were originally deemed suitable. Just 32 are currently operating so that means 23 are available.

But it says the Government hasn't asked to increase the network.  

"The Government should be putting this in the context of the heartache of separated families, worker shortages and businesses going bust, and ask why not expand capacity?" says ACT leader David Seymour. 

Right now productions like The Lion King are getting in ahead. Newshub has the list of critical worker visas for the whole crew, and it includes chaperones, lighting, electricians, sound, and hair and make-up - jobs we do in New Zealand.

"Shortage of nurses and teachers is more critical than the shortage of make-up artists - no offence," said Seymour. 

When National MP Erica Stanford asked Labour about the discrepancy in Parliament on Wednesday she was cat-called by a minister.

"Cat-calling a woman in any circumstance is not appropriate," Stanford said on Thursday, adding that she's "disappointed in the fact that they're not taking the issue of split migrant families more seriously."

The trans-Tasman bubble also offers a solution for the families. If Australian arrivals no longer required managed isolation, 40 percent of the rooms would be freed-up. 

Faafoi conceded that could "potentially" be the case. 

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says it's safe enough to open the bubble.

"That risk is now quite low," he told Newshub. 

But he warns that filling those Australian arrival spots with people from COVID-19 hotspots is dangerous.

"We would effectively be almost doubling the number of people we'd be taking from high incidence countries and that would roughly double our risk of outbreaks in this country," he said. 

Prof Baker says better systems like pre-flight tests and isolation need to be in place.