The Wiggles were given 'contingency' MIQ rooms reserved for emergencies after Jacinda Ardern stepped in

The Wiggles were given emergency contingency rooms in managed isolation after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern got involved, in what officials described as a "one-off". 

Official documents obtained by Newshub show officials were instructed by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to provide 12 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) spaces for the entertainment group from the national contingency supply. 

It came after the Prime Minister instructed gave the instruction to find a practical solution to The Wiggles not being able to secure space in MIQ. 

The contingency supply are rooms in MIQ kept for unforeseen emergency events or if some people need to stay for longer than expected in the facilities. The Wiggles were told accessing the contingency supply would be a "one-off".

In January, Ardern warned promoters not to sell tickets before booking space in MIQ for international acts, after Live Nation - the promoter of The Wiggles' tour - sold tickets to New Zealanders without first securing isolation spots.  

Ardern acknowledged at the time tickets had been purchased by Kiwis at no fault of their own. She said it was her expectation officials would come up with a "practical" solution. 

The documents show a string of emails Live Nation sent to officials in December trying to convince them to give them space in MIQ. They said 40,000 tickets had been sold and the economic impact would exceed $4.4 million. 

Officials wrote back to Live Nation several times explaining how the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - which oversee MIQ operations - needed to "balance" the high number of requests for space in isolation. 

Live Nation voiced frustration about the MIQ booking system, particularly how the "constant refreshing of individual allocations is not viable for groups as we have no way of ensuring enough rooms are available for the entire tour party". 

Officials responded: "Unfortunately, even if rooms did become available during those periods, we have no authority to prioritise The Wiggles over other people who have a right to enter. Your only option is to keep checking online." 

Live Nation's luck turned around when on January 27, an official emailed them to say they'd been instructed to provide 12 MIQ spaces from the national contingency supply to The Wiggles. 

Emails show officials were acting on Ardern's call to find a solution. 

"Following on from the Prime Minister's comments today on finding a practical solution to the Wiggles MIQ dilemma, could you please advise me of the next steps?" one email reads. 

Another email said: "Accessing the contingency in this instance will be a one-off situation. As noted by the Prime Minister, we expect event organisers to have secured visas and MIQ vouchers before selling tickets to shows."

The documents show MBIE was asked for advice in January on allocating MIQ vouchers to The Wiggles and their crew using rooms set aside for emergency contingencies. 

"It was an unusual situation. Tens of thousands of tickets had already been sold for The Wiggles and the Government was looking for a practical solution," Hipkins told Newshub. 

Officials noted it was the only process available for The Wiggles, because they did not meet the criteria for an emergency allocation, which is reserved for urgent situations where New Zealanders need to get home. 

It was also recommended the criteria should not be broadened for groups like The Wiggles, because it could "take away" from other eligible applications, and "set a precedent incentivising other groups to use emergency allocations as a backdoor into MIQ". 

However, officials said there had been "other examples" of groups and individuals seeking time-specific - but not emergency - travel for significant economic or cultural purposes for dates when no MIQ space was available. 

"This suggests there could be merit in creating an additional allocation process."

MBIE announced changes to emergency applications on Thursday, with new categories created for people with terminal illness or with family members suffering, as well as people from Pacific countries needing to enter New Zealand for medical treatment. 

To date, 3088 emergency allocation applications have been processed, but only 1682 have been approved. More than 127,000 people have been through MIQ since March 2020.