Your Vote 2020: Kiwis' changing moods around border control remains a 'hot topic' for voters - researcher

This election, 1 NEWS looks at the top five issues New Zealanders care about the most. This week we take a look at what Kiwis want from border control.


New Zealand's border controls will be a key issue in the 2020 election, as a pandemic continues to rage around the world.

There have been more than 30 million confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins counter, and more than 950,000 people have died.

More than 6.5 million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths are from the US alone. 

In New Zealand, officials remain hopeful they've successfully ring-fenced the latest community cluster, in Auckland, as cases continue to appear at the border.

Research NZ's Emanuel Kalafatelis says the Government's border control measures have been a "hot topic" this year for New Zealanders.

"Prior to this resurgence, border control was a hot topic. And that was simply because the checks and balances weren't in place," he told 1 NEWS. 

"That's what Joe Public's impression was at least, anyway."

Surveys by Research NZ show how rapidly moods changed around the border controls.

In early June, 58 per cent of Kiwis imagined New Zealand would reopen its borders to Australia within three months, while 57 per cent thought it would be open to the Pacific Islands within the same time.

Around a quarter of people thought it'd happen by August.

But two weeks later, people were concerned about the management of the border facilities.

More than a third said they were "not at all confident" about whether the borders were being appropriately managed, while just 14 per cent were "very confident".

Since then, the Labour-led Government has cracked down on the restrictions, including requiring all new arrivals to test negative before leaving a Government-managed isolation facility.

Several months later, it also brought in weekly testing for border workers.

Kalafatelis says despite the recent resurgence of community cases, Kiwis are more pleased with the border controls.

"The fact of the matter is that most people see that resurgence as being a function of community transmission rather than people coming into the country," he says.

"I think even though there are cases identified relating to people coming into the country, the general feeling is that all that is under control and people are being appropriately quarantined."

So far there have only been two known cases of border workers contracting the virus.

The first, a maintenance worker at the Rydges isolation facility in August, caught the virus when using a lift after someone who later tested positive.

Meanwhile, the most recent was a nurse who had been caring for a confirmed case being taken to hospital this month.

The recent surge of community cases are linked to the Auckland cluster, which was sparked by a case at Americold. 

However, the initial transmission remains a mystery, with no links to known positive cases and surface transmission at the coolstore ruled out by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Ahead of the election, voters will be looking to make sure those border controls remain appropriate, Kalafatelis says.

"They're looking for the right assurance that the right checks and balances are in place, that there are no loopholes, and that obviously there are the appropriate controls at the border," he says.

"Currently the impression is that is the case. And as a result of that, border control doesn't seem to be an issue as far as the general public are concerned, when it comes to Covid-19."

Party policies surrounding border controls include creating a specific agency to manage the border, changes to managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and proposals to charge more people entering the country.


Labour: Review immigration criteria to allow more workers into the country, allocate 10 per cent of MIQ spaces for critical workers, targeted strategy encouraging high-value international investment, trans-Tasman travel bubble by mid-2021. See Labour's border policy announcement here.

National: International arrivals require negative Covid-19 test before travel, establish NZ Border Protection Agency to oversee and manage Covid-19 at the border, compulsory contact tracing technology for border workers. See National's border policy announcement here.

NZ First: Create new Border Protection Force, move quarantine locations into existing military facilities. See NZ First's border policy announcement here.

Green Party: No border policies announced.

ACT Party: Create national Epidemic Response Unit, allow private organisations to run MIQ facilities, stricter punishments for MIQ absconders, treat different countries with different levels of caution. See ACT's border policy announcement here.

Māori Party: Require New Zealanders to test negative for Covid-19 before travel. See the Māori Party's border policy announcement here.

The Opportunities Party: Discuss moving MIQ facilities out of Auckland. Charge non-New Zealanders for entering the country. See The Opportunity Party's border policy announcement here.

New Conservatives: Remove military from the border controls. See New Conservatives' border policy announcement here.