Man who went on hunger strike in MIQ calls for Government apology after High Court ruling

A Kiwi who went on hunger strike while stuck in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) waiting to see his dying father has called on the Government to apologise after Wednesday's High Court ruling.

Lobby group Grounded Kiwis successfully took the Government to court over the MIQ lottery system. The High Court found while border restrictions were overall justified to protect the population from COVID-19, the system could have done better.

Managed isolation was the COVID-19 barricade of Fortress New Zealand - something Kurt Lehndorf battled this year to see his dying dad.

"I could see that dad's time had gone from years to months, from months to weeks, then from weeks to days, and I didn't have weeks left," he told Newshub.

Kurt's emergency application was initially declined, then when he got into MIQ he starved himself for 66 hours to get out.

"I think the hunger strike was almost secondary to the hurt of what he was going through."

The High Court's ruling on Wednesday was vindication for the likes of Kurt.

"It's a bit of a David and Goliath victory," he told Newshub. "A bittersweet moment is probably the best way to think about it."

Grounded Kiwis took the Government to court over MIQ and they won - sort of.

"It's huge. We took this case knowing the limits imposed on citizens' rights to come home were morally wrong. Now we know they were legally wrong," Grounded Kiwis' spokesperson Martin Newell told Newshub.

In a lengthy and complex 140 page decision, the High Court judge found "the travel restrictions were in essence a medical decision to protect the health of New Zealanders".

But the judge also found that "a lottery for the majority of places was not appropriate and other reasonable alternatives should have been pursued".

The ruling also states that "the system didn't allow individual circumstances to be considered and prioritised... so was an unjustified limit on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter their country".

Justice Mallon also found that group bookings - like for sports teams - were justified for their social and economic benefits, and rejected that testing and home isolation were reasonable substitutes.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is still considering the decision but said in a statement MIQ was "always the least worst option to help keep COVID-19 from entering and spreading".

But he said the Government acknowledges that "for some citizens, the virtual lobby... may have infringed their right to enter New Zealand".

Kurt is calling for an apology.

"What it doesn't change is the experience for many thousands of people and the trauma that they will take from that," he told Newshub.

"Ultimately, I really think a lot of people like myself really deserve an apology."

In the meantime, success in court will have to do.