Did MIQ voucher-less family have right to enter NZ? Experts verdict

A New Zealand family who gate-crashed their way back into the country were within the law, an expert says.

On December 12, Auckland man Davey Goode and his family entered New Zealand without MIQ vouchers.

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  • Father explains how his voucher-less family gatecrashed way into NZ

During a stopover in Auckland, on an Air New Zealand flight from Sydney to Nadi, Goode and his family spontaneously decided to stay in their home city.

Instead of going to the transit lounge, they proceeded to exit to the airport.

According to Goode (who recorded the exchange on his phone), there then followed a clash between a senior Customs officer, who backed the family’s right to enter NZ, and a rep for MIQ, who wanted the family to go to the transit lounge then board their connecting flight to Fiji.

The standoff ended with the family’s luggage being removed from the Air NZ plane, before they were put on a bus and driven to the MIQ facility at Novotel Auckland, Goode says, where they were checked in by a Defence Force officer, then completed a seven-day quarantine before returning to their Auckland home.

Since the Herald published details of the family’s manoeuvre, there has been a lot of speculation over whether other voucher-less, stranded Kiwis could follow suit after booking a trip that includes a stopover in NZ.

Does the law permit that?

“Yes it does, in terms of the core provisions of the Immigration Act, citizens have the right to enter and be in New Zealand at any time,” says Bell Gully partner Willy Sussman, whose specialities include immigration law.

He qualifies: “If the person did not have a genuine intention to transit and arrived here without an MIQ slot then they would be in breach of the MIQ rules. There would be consequences – but those consequences might be something that desperate Kiwis are prepared to live with.”

In September, the Government hiked fines for pandemic rule breakers to up to $12,000.

Goode told the Herald his stranded family was relocating to Fiji because the cost of accommodation in Sydney was too high. There was no intention to make a break for it during their stopover – until they sighted Auckland, with the city drawing an emotional response, particularly from his two under-10 children.

Who can say if the intent was genuine?

“Many of these rules are required to be monitored by airlines,” Sussman says.

“I imagine it would be impractical for airlines to interrogate passengers at check-in to determine whether they genuinely intend to go to a destination, in this case Fiji.”

Earlier this week, Goode told the Herald he had not received any contact from MIQ, the police or any other agency since his family returned to its home in Auckland.

He said family members had, however, been stressed by comments made by joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Chris Bunny, who said in a statement to the Herald: “It is a legal requirement to have a valid MIQ voucher to enter New Zealand. If someone arrives in the country without a valid MIQ voucher, then their case may be referred to NZ Police for enforcement action.

“We would be extremely disappointed by anyone who purposefully ignores the process, especially when there are thousands of New Zealanders, often in difficult circumstances, who want to come home and who follow the rules.”

Goode said the Auckland Airport Novotel MIQ facility had been “half-empty” during his family’s stay, “so we weren’t taking anyone’s place”.

Earlier, the tech company CEO said he had requested home isolation, due to a family member’s mental health issue. He said that after initially promising discussions, MIQ denied his request.

Customs confirmed that a family of four refused to board a connecting flight on December 12 but would not comment further. A spokesperson said comment on any follow-up action had to be made by MIQ or the Ministry of Health.

The MoH referred comments to MIQ.

An MIQ spokesman said on Tuesday, through a statement issued through parent agency MBIE: “We do not yet fully understand the facts of this situation so are not in a position to advise what further action is appropriate at this stage.”

MIQ has not so far responded to follow-up queries.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins has been asked for comment.

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