ACT leader David Seymour accuses Government of 'torturing' Kiwis with uncertainty over international border

The ACT Party is accusing the Government of torturing Kiwis with uncertainty after it drew a question mark over the January 17 date to creak open the border.

The move has made Kiwis overseas nervous they might not be able to get back and has left the already decimated tourism sector unsure what it means for tourists.

Zoom has certainly defined these COVID-19 times. Stuck in London, Alexandra Birt used it to stay in touch - now stuck in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), she Zoomed in to join others battling the border who presented her petition to Parliament on Tuesday calling for a fairer system with more certainty.

"It's devastating, depressing, dehumanising," Birt said over Zoom. 

Others described it as "disgusting" and that the system makes them feel "rejected by your country, basically". 

Frustration is rising that the Government is no longer guaranteeing the border will creak open on January 17 to fully vaccinated Kiwis coming from Australia. Instead, there's now a January 7 check-in so the Government is certain it's safe.

"At this point we can't discount the possibility that Omicron could prove to be a spanner in the works," said COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. 

ACT leader David Seymour is certain about one thing.

"What people are now being subjected to is constant uncertainty that verges on a form of torture."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is unsure about that.

"It makes good sense for us to take into account what the evidence tells us and do a check-in before we continue on with our reconnection plans," she said. 

And plans to get tourists back exploring our backyard are now also uncertain.

"The only certainty about 2022 is there'll be more uncertainty," says Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts. 

It's not helped by the Tourism Minister. 

"I did say to the industry that I wasn't prepared to give a date," Stuart Nash said on Tuesday. "So if they were looking for a date they weren't going to get one."

According to the latest statistics, since COVID-19, a third of the industry has lost or left their jobs. That's 72,000 people - the entire population of Palmerston North.

And international visitor spending has plummeted from $17.5 billion to just $1.5 billion - a drop of 91.5 percent.

"The seven-day isolation requirement is the single biggest block to the recovery of tourism," says Roberts. 

The Tourism Minister is not even certain when that'll be dropped.

"I would like to think so," he said, when asked if he sees the self-isolation requirement being dropped next year.