Judge rules elements of MIQ infringed on the rights in Grounded Kiwis case, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell for The Bulletin.
The case made by Grounded Kiwis
The case taken by Grounded Kiwis, a society advocating for New Zealanders impacted by MIQ, went to the High Court in February. Justice Jill Mallon’s decision was released yesterday. Grounded Kiwis did not oppose MIQ as a whole or the elimination strategy the system supported. Spokesman Martin Newell said on Checkpoint last night that “it was about creating a system that was fair and enabled people to come home if they needed to”. Asked whether the group would be seeking compensation, Newell said that what they’d sought was “declaratory relief” which gives parties effective resolution without the need for further remedies. Individuals may choose to pursue the matter further. Some want an apology from the government.
Lottery good for Wimbledon tickets
The 140-page decision from Justice Mallon concluded: “Although MIQ was a critical component of the government’s elimination strategy that was highly successful in achieving positive health outcomes, the combination of the virtual lobby and the narrow emergency criteria operated in a way that meant New Zealanders’ right to enter their country could be infringed in some instances in a manner that was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” She wrote that a lottery might be appropriate for something like a green card or tickets to Wimbledon but not for citizens seeking to exercise a fundamental right.
Opposition calls it “a victory”
National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop responded to the decision saying it was judicial proof of “state sponsored cruelty”. This language has previously been used to describe the detention of children in immigration centres in the UK and the maltreatment of indigenous children in Canada. The decision from Justice Mallon comes a week after a Ministry of Health document from November 2021 showed that Dr Caroline McElnay and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield both agreed that MIQ was no longer justified at the time.
Government considering the decision
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins responded saying that the government has “long acknowledged the difficult trade-offs we’ve had to make in our Covid-19 response to save lives and the effects of those decisions on all New Zealanders, particularly those living abroad.” He said the government was carefully considering the court’s decisions. The NZ Herald’s political editor Claire Trevett writes (paywalled) that a lack of apology from the government might suggest they are considering an appeal. Waikato University law professor Al Gillespie said the decision is “not about throwing stones against the government, it’s about being able to teach future generations how we will do better when the next pandemic hits”.