Jacinda Ardern doesn't apologise over MIQ lottery system as documents reveal Govt considered imprisoning Kiwis who used loophole

The managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) lottery system for allocating rooms for those coming home during COVID-19 has been slammed as unreasonable by the Government's watchdog.

The Ombudsman wants an apology, but officials and the Prime Minister are refusing to give one.

Newshub can also reveal the Government even considered locking up Kiwis who went around the MIQ lottery and used a backdoor to get in.

Managing to get into MIQ caused heartbreak, panic attacks, and literal starvation. One Kiwi was forced to survive on chicken necks in Beirut.

A new report by the Government's top watchdog, the Ombudsman, is now out, putting in the boot over just how cruel it was.

"We found that the booking system was unfair and unreasonable. The reason? It was a one size fits all," said Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier. 

He said ministry officials failed New Zealanders.

"Thosewith disabilities found it very, very difficult to access the system. Te Titiri and tikanga Māori wasn't consulted on initially," said Boshier.

He now wants those officials to give those wronged two words: I'm sorry.

"There is this aspect of justice and restoring people's mana. Many feel aggrieved, personally aggrieved at the way they were treated."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government tried to "fix a problem with a system that has been found less wanting".

"We acknowledge that. We wouldn't use a similar system in the future."

Martin Newell, from Grounded Kiwis, said the right thing to do "would be to step up and apologise".

"I think it's pretty plain for everyone to see now."

A few Kiwis who couldn't get a spot did find another way to get in, a wide-open backdoor. They would get to Auckland on a transit flight, but not get on the last leg.

Newshub can reveal the Government considered locking up those Kiwis after the loophole was uncovered.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show officials thought about making it an offence punishable by up to six months in jail or a $12,000 fine.

"Not a single person in any of the emails raised an ethical problem with putting New Zealand citizens in jail for coming back to their own country," said lawyer Tudor Clee.

"We wanted to of course discourage it because there was so much distress for those already using the system," said Ardern.

It's a system torn down before the offence was needed.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the architect and enforcer of MIQ, said it accepted the Ombudsman's findings, but stood by its decision. It called it "high quality" and of a "high standard" in an unprecedented pandemic. It did not say sorry.