Māori voice 'hasn't been heard' in debate to charge returnees for managed isolation, expats say

A Kiwi expat living in London says Māori voices are not being heard in the debate on whether or not to charge returning New Zealanders for their Covid-19 managed isolation stay.

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Luke Claasen and Max Harris are part of a group, Team of 6 Million, challenging the Government's plans to slap returnees with managed isolation fees. Source: Breakfast

On Wednesday, legislation was passed under urgency to charge some New Zealanders returning home for the cost of their mandatory two-weeks isolation.

The Government's plan is to charge those who come for short term visits and holidays of less than 90 days, and there are exemptions for people if they need to return for a specific reason.

Government seeks to charge $3100 isolation fee for holidayers, temporary stayers

However, about one million, almost 17 per cent, of New Zealand citizens live overseas. A group representing them, called Team of 6 Million, has sprung up to argue against any quarantine fees.

They're now making a last ditch bid to convince the Government not to implement the legislation, which is expected to come into force on Monday.

Speaking from London, expat New Zealander Luke Claasen told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning: "There's been little to no consultation with Māori."

Public opinion differs from Government over charging Kiwis for managed isolation, 1 NEWS poll shows

"We know of one meeting that was held with Te Arawhiti, the Crown/Māori Relations, but as you've seen in the media, none of our Māori politicians have actually commented on this," Mr Claasen said.

He argued that not all considerations had been taken into account by the Government, for example the unfairness for the Crown to charge Māori to return to the land they have a special connection with.

"The Māori voice hasn't been heard."

Questions from 1 NEWS  to Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahutu were diverted to Minister Megan Woods who is in charge of managed isolation.

A spokesperson for the Housing Minister said in a statement, "officials received advice from TPK [Te Puni Kōkiri] and Te Arawhiti to ensure the policy and regulations were compliant with the Treaty of Waitangi".

"Consultation was undertaken with iwi with regards to the proposed regulations, via the All-of-Government group."

A Facebook group set up for those "united against quarantine fees" has attracted almost 4000 people.

Mr Claasen, who is a lawyer, said the page shares the stories of thousands of Kiwis abroad, many of whom cannot afford to come home. 

"The traditional OE (overseas experience) has changed, we say, and your everyday Kiwi makes it overseas now. We're not all lawyers living in London and not all of us can afford to pay," he said.

"All Kiwis should have the right to come home as citizens."

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Megan Woods says people who enter NZ temporarily or leave after the regulations changed will get a bill. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 4500 people have also signed a petition against quarantine fees.

Ex-pat Max Harris was also appeared on Breakfast this morning and said he's among one of the Kiwis who'd like to return.

"I'd love to come back. We both care a lot about New Zealand, same with everyone in the group, and it's just sad that this has made some people hesitate, it's had to make some people think hard about whether they can afford it and when they can come back," Mr Harris said.

He added that a lot of concerns around cost and capacity were dwindling away.

"Ultimately it came down to fairness and what we've been saying is we could have Covid for quite a long time, the Government should be really careful in putting up a system that actually lives up to the best of our values and the values the Government's talked about, values like empathy and compassion."

The group is calling for the Government to hold off enforcing the quarantine fees until after the election on September 19.