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SocietyJuly 19, 2020

The ultimate guide to New Zealand quarantine and managed isolation hotels

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What should you expect when you touch down in New Zealand, bound for your temporary hotel home? It all depends on the luck of the draw, writes the NZ Herald’s Isaac Davison in this Herald Premium article.


It is the lottery of managed isolation: Some returning New Zealanders end up in $800-a-night hotels with a sea view, and others are shipped off to a mid-range hotel with basic meals.

There are now 32 hotels being used in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch for Covid-19 quarantine and managed isolation.

They range from a 3-star backpacker-style accommodation to a 5-star luxury hotel on Auckland’s waterfront.

Most of the hotels are 4.5 or 5 stars – officials want isolation to be as comfortable as possible to encourage compliance. They must all meet strict criteria, including hygiene requirements, security, and providing three meals a day and exercise opportunities to guests.

But beyond those standards, the hotels differ in size, quality and other factors. And the unique challenges created by a public health crisis mean many hotels cannot provide their usual level of service.

Shailee Adke Barde, who went into isolation on June 24 after arriving back from India, said her two weeks of isolation was overwhelmingly positive.

She was put up at the Grand Millennium in Auckland’s CBD. Returning New Zealanders have no say where they end up, and usually find out their hotel – or their destination city – when they get on a bus at the airport.

The group she travelled with was divided into three hotels and they compared notes. “We figured Millennium was one of the best ones,” she said.

“One of the people I know got sent to Jet Park Hotel [in Māngere] because they thought they had symptoms, just to be safe. It was a major step down, because they got a smaller room and the views weren’t as amazing.”

A Jet Park hotel room self-portrait (Photo: Andrew Todd)

Travellers who end up at Jet Park Hotel often face a different set of rules. The hotel is used to quarantine people who present with Covid-19 symptoms at the airport or in isolation.

People who have tested negative for Covid-19 at Jet Park Hotel get a blue armband, which means they can move about more freely. Those still waiting on a test result must be escorted outside of their room. Alcohol is not available.

The availability and cost of beer and wine is one of the most hotly-debated topics among those in isolation.

A manager at Naumi Auckland Airport said the hotel had agonised over how much to supply and what to charge. If they didn’t offer beer and wine or charged too much, people would bring booze in – or break out, as in one infamous case in Hamilton.

Naumi decided on allowing four beers or a bottle of wine to be bought per day, at discounted prices, and empties were collected before delivery so people did not stock up.

The Naumi manager said travellers usually turned up in groups of 40 or 50 people at a time. They were placed in the best hotel rooms first, separated by “bubbles”. The hotel had two huge suites which were charged out at around $1000 a night, but they were left empty because they were not self-contained.

The Weekend Herald found most high-end hotels were keeping their VIP suites empty. One hotel manager said they wanted to avoid even the slightest potential for jealousy or conflict between guests.

But while there may be no competition between guests in the same hotel, returnees sometimes felt a twinge of envy at those who were put up in flasher accommodation.

An entire subculture has sprung up on dedicated Instagram and Facebook pages in which people compare and critique Wifi quality, food, exercise spaces and room size.

One of the most desirable spots for isolation is luxury hotel SO/ Auckland in the Britomart district, which usually charges between $450 and $825 a night (returnees’ hotel bills are covered by the government).

Guests cannot take advantage of all of the hotel’s perks – they are barred from using the Finnish sauna or the rooftop bar. There is a blanket ban on returnees using gyms, pools and other facilities at all isolation hotels.

Another hotel, the Pullman in central Auckland, has a $3000 suite. It would not say whether lucky isolators were being put up in the 290sq m room.

It has not all been rosy for returnees in isolation. Many felt unfairly vilified for simply returning to their home country, often after suddenly abandoning their lives overseas or stressful, long-winded trips home. Public scrutiny was especially strong after four people escaped from hotels in the space of two weeks.

More than 30,000 people have now been through managed isolation or quarantine since New Zealand went into lockdown.

The government has spent more than $80 million on hotel bills so far, and has put aside another $300 million for the rest of the year. It has considered charging returnees for their hotel stays, but has so far not made a decision.

A brief guide to managed isolation hotels

“Price” indicates the hotel’s standard room rate. Managed isolation and quarantine stays are free for all returning New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, except those who are returning to the country for less than 90 days.


Crowne Plaza Auckland

128 Albert St, Auckland

4 star plus

Price: n/a

Notes: Very good wifi. Plain breakfast of cereal, pastry, fruit and juice. Large, hot meals three times a day and morning and afternoon tea is served. Barista coffee available at a charge. Free laundry, charge of $30 for excess.

Four Points by Sheraton

396 Queen St

4.5 stars

Price: $352-$1025*

Notes: Hearty meals, including hamburgers and chips. Occasional free alcoholic drink with dinner. Unlimited, fast wifi.

Grand Mercure Auckland

8 Customs St East

4.5 stars

Price: $296-$791

Notes: Good Wifi. Large food portions. One of the most highly rated hotels for food options.

Grand Millennium

71 Mayoral Drive

4 star plus

Price: $239-$349

Notes: Another hotel where guests have given top reviews for the food. Because it hosts arrivals from Indian flights, the meals tend towards Indian cuisines including paneer butter masala and cumin rice. Barista coffee available. Beer and wine can be ordered but not brought in.

Haka Hotel Newmarket

9 Manukau Rd, Epsom

3 star

Price: $40-$259

Notes: One of the more modest options being used for managed isolation.

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

2 Ascot Rd, Māngere

4 star

Price: $226-$258

Notes: One of the poorer-ranked isolation options. Weak wifi. Food “not very nice”, said one guest. Some complaints of dusty rooms.

Ibis Ellerslie

72-112 Green Lane East, Ellerslie

4 star

Price: $178-$223

Notes: Unfortunately located next to another isolation hotel, Novotel Ellerslie, which is slightly flasher.

Returnee Andrew Todd on a walk around the Jet Park hotel grounds (Read the full story here)

Jet Park Hotel

63 Westney Rd, Māngere,

4 star plus

Price: $244-394

Notes: The Alcatraz of the isolation hotels. It is a quarantine hotel for people with Covid-19 symptoms, so the rules are stricter, even for those who are only in managed isolation. No alcohol is available. Movement is more restricted, especially for people waiting on test results. Guests said there were large meal portions, which included lamb curry with rice and vegetarian lasagne.

M Social

196-200 Quay St

5 star

Price: $303-$979

Notes: One of the best locations of the isolation hotels, across the road from Princes Wharf. It has rooms which go for nearly $1000 a night, but the front desk wouldn’t say whether they were offered to isolating guests.

Naumi Auckland Airport

153 Kirkbride Rd, Māngere

4 star plus

Price: $246-$1100

Notes: One of the better Auckland Airport options, with three hot meals a day including BBQ pork ribs and fried chicken for dinners. Guests can buy up to four beers or one bottle of wine a day, at discounted prices. Instant coffee in the room, barista coffee can be delivered to rooms. Large exercise area.

Novotel Auckland Airport

Ray Emery Drive, Māngere

4 star plus

Price: $276-352

Notes: Very good Wifi. Also has good food, though some guests complained about curries nearly every night.

Novotel Ellerslie

72-112 Green Lane East, Ellerslie

4 star plus

Price: $229-$279

Notes: Good wifi. Large carpark which can be used for exercise at any time.

Spinoff political editor Justin Giovannetti during his two week managed isolation stay at the Pullman Hotel, Auckland.

Pullman Hotel

Corner Waterloo Quadrant & Princes St

5 star

Price: $398-$3000

Notes: Weak Wifi, say some guests, but the hotel staff sometimes provides SIM cards for free. Large portions of food. Unfortunately, the $3000-a-night penthouse is not offered to people in isolation.

Ramada Auckland

219 Federal St

4 star

Price: n/a

Notes: The “boutique-style” suites at the Ramada are for an exclusive group of isolators – those who have been deported from Australia under the controversial 501 laws. The deportees get most of the perks of other isolators, but have one key difference: a huge police presence outside.

Rydges Auckland

4 star plus

Price: $379-$519

Notes: Three meals a day, no options given (except vegetarian/non-vegetarian). Instant coffee in the rooms or barista coffee can be ordered to your room.

Sebel Manukau

16 Lakewood Court, Manukau

4 star plus

Price: $210-$305

Notes: Large rooms and daily escorted walks in large outdoor carpark in 45-minute slots. Good Wifi.


Corner Customs St East & Gore St

5 stars

Price: $455-$825

Notes: One of the most sought-after hotels by isolators. The meals are the envy of others when they are posted on social media. Stunning location overlooking Queens Wharf. Exercise is on the jetty by the Auckland harbour. Nespresso in each hotel room. Sadly, the luxury, heated lap pool and Finnish sauna are off-limits.

A hotel staff worker sanitises the outside of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza on July 10, 2020. Read more about the experience of staying in managed isolation at the Stamford here. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Stamford Plaza

22-26 Albert St

5 star

Price: $439-$709

Notes: Notorious for being the hotel from which a man absconded to the supermarket via the smoking area. For those guests who stay put, a courtyard is available for exercise between 6am and 9pm. Huge meals, three times a day.

Sudima Auckland Airport

18 Airpark Drive, Māngere

4 star plus

Price: $209-$269

Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre

58 Waipuna Rd, Mount Wellington

4 star

Price: n/a

Notes: Guests report excellent food options, including braised beef and soba noodle salad with salmon. Large grassy area outside for exercise.

The Italian Renaissance Garden at Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton (Photo: Getty Images)


Distinction Hotel Te Rapa

100 Garnett Ave, Te Rapa

4 star

Price: n/a

Notes: Patchy wifi. Instant coffee in the room, or barista coffee delivered to the room for $5. Guests said food was good, with choices for each meal. Alcohol available, though apparently the range is limited given one of the guests broke out in search of a more sophisticated beer at a nearby liquor store.

Ibis Tainui

18 Alma St, Hamilton

3 star plus

Price: $152-$174

Jet Park Hotel

201 Airport Rd, Hamilton

4 star

Price: $200-$250

Sunset at Rotorua’s Ohinemutu village (Getty Images).


Ibis Rotorua

Lake End, Rangiuru St

3 star plus

Price: $161-$188

Notes: Poor wifi, guests buy SIM cards. Large basement and outdoor carpark for exercise which can be accessed at all times, described as a “godsend” by one guest. Large rooms.

Sudima Rotorua

1000 Eruera St, Rotorua

4 star

Price: $179-$309

Notes: Guests said wifi was poor, but SIM cards could be purchased. Large food portions, good reviews.

The Beehive, Wellington (Photo: Getty Images)


Grand Mercure

345 The Terrace, Te Aro

5 star

Price: $242-$359

Bay Plaza Hotel

40-44 Oriental Parade

3 star plus

Price: $160-$203

Notes: One of the newest additions to the managed isolation list, it has stunning views across Wellington’s harbour. It is also walking distance to many of Wellington’s best restaurants and theatres – all of which are off-limits to guests.


Sudima Christchurch Airport

550 Memorial Ave, Harewood

5 stars

Price: $229-$469

Commodore Hotel

449 Memorial Ave, Burnside

4 star plus

Price: $238-$388

Notes: Choice of two meals for lunch and dinner (meat or vege). Guests can go outside at any time to a large outside carpark.

Novotel Christchurch Airport

Christchurch International Airport

4 star plus

Price: n/a

Notes: Good wifi, not great vegetarian options.

Chateau on the Park

189 Deans Ave, Riccarton

4 star

Price: $151-$401

Distinction Christchurch Hotel

14 Cathedral Square

4 star plus

Price: $219-$359

* Prices are for usual rates for 2 adults booking for February 2021 (the earliest time consistent rates between hotels were available). People in managed isolation and quarantine are not charged.

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