In response to mounting criticism over the fairness of the MIQ booking system, the Government confirmed it will be introducing a new “virtual lobby” and lottery system from Monday.
Expat software engineer Ben Morrison said that while the new system was an improvement on the old one, flaws remained.
In late August, MIQ bookings were paused because of the growing number of community Covid-19 cases in New Zealand.
That pause will lift on September 20, and the Government will be offering 3000 spots in MIQ from late September through to December. People are able to book them through an online MIQ booking 'lobby' opening at 8am Monday, with room releases starting at 9am.
Four thousand rooms a fortnight will be released in stages over the four months.
From there, people would be selected randomly from the lobby to book one of the 3000 rooms. Those who miss out would then have to wait for the next round of spots to be released.
"This is not a first-in, first-served model. It doesn’t matter when people arrive in the lobby in that one hour period, everyone has an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room," Joint Head of MIQ, Megan Main, said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Once the room release starts, all of the people in the lobby will be automatically moved into a queue — this will be randomised, removing the need to be the fastest."
Main said there is "no limit on how many people can wait in the lobby" and "no need to keep refreshing the website anymore".
She noted that while the new feature "should improve user experience, it is not a silver bullet".
"It will not fix the issue of supply and demand. Unfortunately, in periods of high demand, a lot of people will miss out on securing a room."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it would create a more level playing field because there wouldn’t be a competition to be the fastest to push buttons. But, he acknowledged demand still surpassed supply.
Morrison, a Kiwi living in Oregon, created www.miq4u.com to combat the old system’s need for people to constantly refresh their computer to book a spot in MIQ by texting and emailing someone when a room was available on dates they choose.
He told Breakfast there hadn’t been much detail from the Government about how the lobby would actually work.
“We’ll be waiting for an hour not knowing exactly what’s going to happen and then some of us … are going to get this golden ticket and the rest of us are going to go away feeling disappointed.”
He also had questions about what would happen to room bookings that were cancelled.
Morrison said a “fairer way to do it” would be to have waitlists for each day’s worth of room bookings. He said that would be a more efficient way than a large lobby room.
“I think that’s a flaw of the system they’re introducing. Regardless of how they’re ordering this queue... the flaw is that it’s a queue for every day.”
He said day-by-day waitlists would make more sense because people generally knew which dates they wanted to return home on.
“People know when they want to travel…so I should be queueing up for just that date.”
It was a matter of waiting and seeing what actually happened on Monday, he said.
In August, Morrison had criticised the old MIQ booking system for being “cruel”.
Morrison plans to return to New Zealand later this year. His daughter also wants to come home in time for semester one at university next year.
About 170,000 people have re-entered New Zealand through the MIQ system since the start of the pandemic.