Government won't appeal Grounded Kiwis MIQ court ruling, won't say if it'll apologise

The Government will not appeal a court ruling that the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) virtual lobby system didn't sufficiently allow for individual circumstances to be taken into account.

But it's refusing to say whether it will apologise to the New Zealanders disadvantaged by the system, which was referred to by the court in an April judgement as a "lottery" and an unjustified infringement on Kiwis' rights to enter their own country. 

As late as Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister wasn't saying whether the Government would appeal the decision, but the new COVID-19 Response Minister confirmed on Tuesday morning that it had decided not to.

"We know that MIQ was a very important part of our process for keeping New Zealanders safe," Dr Ayesha Verrall told reporters ."It averted tens of thousands of deaths but we also know it put a major cost on people who sought to cross the border and we want to acknowledge that that was very tough on people."

She wouldn't say if the Government would apologise over the matter, repeating that MIQ was tough but necessary. 

"The point is that we need to make sure that our response to this judgement is balanced," Dr Verrall said. "The legal advice has just come through overnight and we are digesting that."

The Government will continue engaging with Grounded Kiwis, the advocacy group which brought the MIQ case in the High Court, Dr Verrall said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a similar line to her minister when asked if the Government was considering an apology.

"All the way through we have acknowledged that the closure of our borders has been hard on an incredible number of people and we have acknowledged that all of the way through," she said.

"But we have also asserted that it was an important part of our response in keeping people safe, but there will be some incredibly difficult situations and we have always acknowledged that."

Asked if that meant no apology, Ardern said: "I'll leave it at that".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall. Photo credit: Getty Images.

National's Chris Bishop told reporters on Tuesday that the court's April judgement was "vindication for a huge number of New Zealanders who spent countless weeks, months playing the lottery to try and win the right to enter their own country."

He said it's taken the Government "too long" to confirm it won't appeal and, given the decision, now needs to apologise. 

"The appropriate thing to do in those circumstances is to issue an apology."

ACT leader David Seymour agrees. 

"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern owes an apology to the New Zealanders she put through hell by not allowing them access to their own country," Seymour said.

"The decision not to appeal the Grounded Kiwis case is an admission the Government got it wrong."

He said Ardern should "look firmly down the barrel of the camera, own the decision she made to keep families apart and say sorry".

"People wanted and needed to come home for many reasons. Family reunions, deaths of loved ones, the arrival of new babies, to fill jobs, and just being with family and friends. New Zealand is their home, and this Government kept them locked out and fighting over a tiny number of MIQ spaces like some sort of cruel game."