29 Jul 2020

Explainer: Who pays, who's exempt from managed isolation fees

5:08 pm on 29 July 2020

The government expects to recoup only about $10 million from its new managed isolation charges - a fraction of the scheme's $500m cost.

Travellers arrive at Auckland Airport amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

Some travellers will soon be billed $3100 for their stay at isolation facilities around the country. (file pic) Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Housing Minister Megan Woods outlined how its new charging scheme for managed isolation will work at a media briefing today.

New Zealanders who enter the country temporarily (less than 90 days), or who leave after planned regulations come into force will be charged for managed isolation.

The fees will be $3100 per person in a room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child sharing the room.

The government had spent about $80m on managed isolation by the end of last month and has committed another $418m to pay for the scheme through until the end of the year. It expects to collect under $10m by the end of 2020 from people returning, Woods said.

She said the legislation to enact the new system will be introduced to Parliament today and is expected to be passed by next week before Parliament goes into recess for the election campaign.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill provides a legal framework to allow the government to set payment terms, exempt groups of people and waive charges in cases of financial hardship, Woods said.

Who will be affected?

Once the regulations come into force, it is proposed New Zealanders, and residents and temporary visa holders will have to pay charges as below:

Any New Zealander, who either:

  • Leaves New Zealand after the regulations come into force or
  • Is visiting New Zealand for less than 90 days
  • Any temporary visa holder, unless:

  • They were ordinarily resident in New Zealand as of 19 March 2020, and
  • They departed New Zealand on or before 19 March 2020, and
  • They are not entering New Zealand on a border exception as a critical worker.

Classes of people such as the following who are proposed not to be liable for charges include:

  • Family members travelling or isolating with people who do not have to pay charges (unless they are entering New Zealand on a border exception as a critical worker)
  • New Zealand citizens deported to New Zealand
  • Diplomats and official government representatives
  • Any person travelling to New Zealand to attend the sentencing of the accused in the Christchurch mosque attacks
  • Refugees and protected persons for their first entry into New Zealand after the charges come into force

When will the charging system begin?

Probably within the next two to three weeks.

I'm a New Zealander hoping to return to New Zealand soon. Will I have to pay?

New Zealanders who are currently overseas (ie who left before the regulations came into force) will not have to pay if they stay in New Zealand for 90 days or longer.

I'm a New Zealander about to go on holiday. Will I have to pay when I return?

If you leave New Zealand after the regulations come into force, it is proposed that you would have to pay for your managed isolation unless you qualify for a waiver or are otherwise exempt.

Is this legal?

Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, New Zealanders have the right to enter New Zealand. This means anything that prevents or impedes that right to return to New Zealand needs to be justified.

Charging people for their stays in managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ) affects this right to enter New Zealand. Woods said that is why the government is ensuring:

  • People are not charged any more than the actual and reasonable costs of MIQ
  • Fees can be waived in cases of financial hardship
  • No upfront payment would be required
  • There will be flexibility in how people can pay

How does the government's plan differ from National's policy?

It differs sharply from the National Party's proposed fee, which would apply to all returnees except for a narrow set of compassionate exemptions for medical or financial reasons. National's charge would be $3000 for the first adult, $1000 for the second adult, and $500 for each child.

What does Australia charge?

Several Australian states and territories have announced quarantine charges in the last few weeks. For example, New South Wales charges all international passengers including Australian citizens and permanent residents in hotel quarantine $AU3000 ($NZ3200) with lower rates for additional children and adults sharing accommodation.

Few passengers are seen on departure at Sydney International Airport on April 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia as the coronavirus pandemic forced the virtual shutdown of air travel.

New Zealand's charge is similar to one already being applied in New South Wales. Photo: AFP

How many Kiwis are overseas?

An estimated 600,000 to 900,000 New Zealand citizens are living overseas, with around 400,000 to 600,000 living in Australia. It is unknown how many are intending to return.

How long will we have the managed isolation and quarantine system for?

It is impossible to tell how the situation will develop internationally and in New Zealand, the government says. It is working to make the system sustainable and manageable for as long as the country needs it and it is expected the system will be amended as appropriate.

Why is self-isolation at home not allowed?

The government says its experience from February and March 2020, before managed isolation and quarantine was introduced, showed that compliance with self-isolation requirements by people arriving in New Zealand was patchy and could not be relied on.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs