19 Aug 2020

New Zealand First calls for border protection force, quarantine to be managed by NZDF

5:22 pm on 19 August 2020

New Zealand First wants to move the whole border quarantine operation into existing military facilities, and create a new Border Protection Force.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters at his 2020 election campaign launch.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Leader Winston Peters has released the party's new quarantine policy, saying pandemics offer "no room for error".

He says the events of the past week have raised the question of whether the current arrangement of government agencies is the best way to fight outbreaks.

"This is not a criticism of the valiant efforts of our frontline staff and emergency workers," Peters says, "this is a call by my party for a new border security policy ... a new Border Protection Force.

"A new centralised force to focus our government efforts in a single line of attack."

He says the "roles, responsibilities, and obligations" of the border force would be clearly set out; "patchwork responses and blurred responsibilities must be rejected".

It would combine the functions of the Defence Force, Customs and other border agencies.

Another major change would be handing responsibility for quarantining over to the Defence Force, with the option of using Waiouru, Ōhakea or Burnham Camps, with assistance from police.

Peters says this will all provide longer term options, and potentially avoid having to put large cities like Auckland back into lockdown.

He says it will significantly reduce the cost to taxpayers.

"The current costs of quarantine to government are astronomical, a fraction would instead be invested into the set-up and the running of military facilities."

Pandemics move swiftly, he says.

"They offer no room for error, and a government must be at its very best to beat a pandemic.

"This nation has responded well in the past, but we must examine every option and take every step to respond better in the future."

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