Winston Peters says New Zealand First doesn't support Cabinet's decision for the rest of New Zealand to stay in Alert Level 2.
Jacinda Ardern this afternoon announced New Zealand would be moving to Level 1 from midnight on Monday 21 September, if no Covid-19 cases appear outside of Auckland between now and then.
Auckland's alert level status will also be reviewed that day, but changes, if any, would not come into effect until September 23 at 11.59pm.
The NZ First leader has invoked the "agree to disagree" provision of the coalition agreement in response to the decision.
Peters says New Zealand First "supports the continuation of Alert Level 2 in Auckland", but "it cannot support a continuation of Alert Level 2 outside of Auckland".
He says in keeping the rest of the country at Level 2 the "economic risks" are rising sharply.
“As a Government, we have to weigh relative risk across a number of factors. The elimination of all health risk skews that analysis in favour of theories of transmission that are so far not supported by any actual evidence of transmission outside Auckland, while the economic burden for current and future taxpayers continues to mount.
“The Director-General of Health has stated that the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland is contained. Additionally, he believes there is a low risk of transmission outside of Auckland,” says Peters.
Despite modelling suggesting a small risk of undetected cases outside Auckland, Peters says no evidence has yet emerged that this risk has been realised.
“Businesses outside Auckland affected by Alert Level 2 restrictions are looking to the Government to fairly apply its own agreed upon criteria to match the health situation they face."
Ardern said today her decision not to move most of New Zealand out of Level 2 immediately was based on Ministry of Health modelling suggesting there is still "around a 25 per cent chance of cases moving outside the Auckland region".
She also said today that it's "not unusual" for New Zealand First to take a different stance.
"We did have a majority decision in Cabinet, but it's not unusal that from time to time New Zealand First may take a different view. They have in this case.
"They also took a different view on the timing of the Cook Islands bubble, opening up to Australia and the lifting of restrictions in the past."