NZ's MIQ booking system still no match for computer programmers, despite Government crackdown

There's mounting pressure on the Government to improve MIQ booking processes as computer programmers continue to beat the system.

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The Government said it would be preventing coders from booking vouchers on behalf of people, but it hasn’t yet happened. Source: 1 NEWS

Last week the Government said it'd be cracking down after 1 NEWS revealed web developers were booking MIQ vouchers for others.

Dan* is a Kiwi computer programmer who says he’s booked nine more vouchers since then.

“The challenge they've put on the site doesn't prevent scanning for the dates I need. When the date appears I’m able to go in and get it.”

He says the counter-measures made to stop his scripts, like introducing a reCaptcha test, have simply made it harder for other Kiwis to book vouchers.

“The more active you are on the site trying to get a date, the more likely you are to be continuously challenged with the ability to secure a booking.”

Dan says he doesn’t get paid, and is doing it to help people like Nate, a Kiwi who’s just returned home from London. Nate says he’d been trying to book a voucher for weeks on his own.

“I wasn't getting anywhere. It was so difficult just refreshing. The computer guy…was picking it up really quick.”

Government probing use of computer programmes to get managed MIQ vouchers for returning Kiwis

After being without work for a couple of months, he’s elated to be home.

“I was jumping up and down yahooing, I rang my mother and she was very excited that I finally got a spot because that was the hardest thing to get.

“If it wasn't for [Dan] I wouldn't be here right now.”

Act leader David Seymour says our current MIQ voucher system is “causing huge anxiety” for people, and wants to see the booking window extended.

“Right now you can only book threemonths ahead and those dates are full. The Government should increase it to a 6 month window so there's more time for people to book and you don’t have people sitting up all night.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the system was created in a rush, and will continue to be improved.

“Please be patient, keep checking the booking system. Where vouchers become available we do re-release them on a daily basis, so vouchers are coming up all of the time. Keep an eye on it and grab those vouchers when they become available.”

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The Otago University professor told Q+A the country is seeing a failure in the system every two weeks. Source: Q+A

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which runs the voucher system declined an interview.

In a statement it told 1 NEWS it “strongly discourages” the use of computer scripts to access vouchers and that it will be reviewing it’s systems a second time.

“Although this individual might believe he is helping people, he is actually preventing the majority of New Zealanders from securing their vouchers who do not utilise his programme. It is disappointing that this behaviour is continuing” a spokesperson said.

“MIQ has put checks in the process to reduce the impact of scripted activity. We will review our current checks to ensure the fairness of MIAS is maintained.”

Dan believes a more co-ordinated system that pairs flights with vouchers would ease congestion on the site.

“If the New Zealand Government is controlling flights and capacity coming in you should be able to book a ticket and get voucher with it. I don't understand why this digital competition, this kind of hunger games is going on where we must compete for a voucher and a flight.”

He says he doesn’t intend to keep booking vouchers long-term, and will stop when problems with the system are fixed.

“Any voucher I've secured is one person off the system. They are people who are not going to be sitting there for the next month refreshing all day every day, that’s where the system’s getting hammered.”

“I agree I shouldn't be the person deciding who gets helped, but I'm dealing with people who haven't been helped.”

*Name has been changed.