ACT's David Seymour has revealed his "mistake" in believing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she said she wanted this year's lockdown to be "short and sharp" led him to receive a nearly $3000 bill.
New Zealand entered alert level 4 on August 17 after the highly-infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus was found in the community. At the time, Ardern was asked about potential problems with compliance and the need for the highest level of lockdown.
"I say to Kiwis, do what you have done before," the Prime Minister said. "We want to be short and sharp rather than light and long. We have seen what happened in Sydney and we don't want that experience here. If we all comply, it lifts our chances of getting out of this earlier."
While much of Aotearoa remained in the highest level of lockdown for just two weeks, it was a different story for Auckland. The region stayed at level 4 until September 21 and then didn't leave level 3 until last week.
Seymour told The AM Show on Tuesday that he believed Ardern when she said she wanted a quick lockdown.
"I believed her and I left with my car in the short term parking at Auckland Airport. The bill was like almost $3,000," the ACT leader said. "But I just want to tell you that I didn't put it on the taxpayer."
"Auckland International Airport Limited they thankfully waived the bill for people stuck in that situation because really, in hindsight, it was silly to believe Jacinda about it being short and sharp, but they waived the bill. So, sorry if you're a shareholder, but that was the biggest mistake I made [this year]."
Ardern was asked about her "short and sharp" comment in September, as Auckland remained at level 4. She rejected that the Government had underestimated the infectiousness of Delta, noting that alert level 4 had been used rather than level 3 as had been done in previous outbreaks.
"The reference to short and sharp was putting everyone into lockdown the same day we found one case. You would have seen, around the world, people found it interesting that New Zealand would do that, but that’s because of us taking Delta seriously and our elimination approach.
"Of course, what we then determined is that we had cases probably being generated over the course of more than a week, so of course that lent itself to an outbreak that was larger, with a super-spreader event that has required that ongoing action."
Modelling showed the Government's decision to keep Auckland in alert level 4 for an extended period did work in bringing down cases and protecting the community from the virus while vaccination rates were ramped up in late August and into September. However, once restrictions were loosened in September, cases again began rising.
Ardern has said that was likely to happen even at level 4 as people became less compliant.
"One of the things in our thinking has been, over time, adhering to really strict restrictions is hard, and you can expect that human behaviour might change," she said in October as the Government rejected calls for Auckland to move back to level 4.
It was revealed in November that Government advisor Sir Brian Roche told ministers on September 23 - two days after Auckland's move to alert level 3 - that tolerance for lockdowns was waning. He also said the outbreak had "revealed the very poor level of preparedness of hospitals for Delta".
Seymour told The AM Show on Tuesday that 2021 hadn't been all bad. He said it had been a really big year for ACT. In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, ACT jumped 4.9 percent to 16 percent, meaning it would double its caucus from 10 to 20 MPs.
"I'm really pleased that, not just people who used to vote National, but people used to vote Labour or people who used to vote Green, really like the way that we are aware of what's going on in the world and try to put up positive solutions to make things better.
"I should also just mention, it's a little bit morbid, but on November 7, the End of Life Choice Act finally became law. Thousands of people have worked for decades, go back to the '80s, to make that possible. Now my name was on the piece of paper and it was my Bill they say, but I was really happy to see that people who've worked for this, to make New Zealand a more humane and compassionate country over quite a long time, really the length of my lifetime, finally got to see that Bill become law and that does make me very happy."
Seymour also promised he hadn't secretly had any babies or got married this year.