NZ First proposes moving quarantine to military facilities, creating new Border Protection Force

New Zealand First says a new agency needs to be created to focus the country’s efforts on its ongoing border control against Covid-19, and that quarantine facilities should be moved to existing military facilities.

The party’s proposed new ministry, which it would implement if re-elected to Government, is being called the New Zealand Border Force.

The Force would be tasked to “co-ordinate the protection of our borders from pandemic and biosecurity incursions”, New Zealand first leader Winston Peters said.

The agency would report to one senior Cabinet Minister, who would then report to Cabinet and the Prime Minister. 

It aimed to combine the functions of the Defence Force, Customs Service and the immigration detention and compliance functions of Immigration New Zealand.

“A new centralised Force to focus our government efforts in a single line of attack,” he said.

Mr Peters said it wasn’t clear where the bucked stopped because there was “a massive blend of government agencies, task forces, and central agencies, with overlapping roles”.

He asked whether the current arrangement meant all sectors of the Government knew what the other was doing.

“Take the recent case of an infected worker at a quarantine facility,” Mr Peters said. 

“And what did we see?

“A press conference from a Minister of Health and a Secretary General of Health on the outbreak, a press conference from a Housing Minister and an Air Commodore on the quarantines, and a Prime Minister answering questions in Parliament on lockdowns, and what happened when.”

He added: “When the government bureaucracy is effective, the response is effective. … This is not a criticism of the valiant efforts of our frontline staff and emergency workers.”

Mr Peters said a “safer, long-term alternative” was needed instead of continuing to quarantine people in Auckland.

“Currently we have Covid-19 coming into the most populated city in the country and quarantined within the central city - with security and staff that come in and out of the facilities with potential to spread through the community.”

He proposed a move of quarantine locations to one or more military facilities, including at Waiouru’s Main and/or Helwan Camp, Ohakea Camp in Manawatu and Burnham Camp Area, West Melton Training Area in Christchurch.

Mr Peters also proposed NZDF personnel would be posted there on long-term rotations to minimise the movement in and out of quarantine facilities. 

The police would also assist the defence force in planning and operating the quarantine.

“We will build extra temporary and/or longer term infrastructure construction – prefabricated buildings, facilities, and processing assets,” he said.

“Current costs of quarantine to [the] Government are astronomical.  A fraction would instead be invested into the set-up and the running of military facilities.”