26 Oct 2021

Ardern rejects need to visit Auckland: 'I have a duty to run the country'

5:35 pm on 26 October 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she does not need to travel to Auckland to understand the impact of the lockdown there.

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Photo: 123rf

National leader Judith Collins this morning criticised the government's "traffic light" plan, which would reduce restrictions for those with vaccine certificates once all DHBs reach 90 percent double vaccinated.

She talked about the frustrations of Aucklanders and the stress they were facing.

"As a leader and someone with a lot of pride and love of this country I find it intolerable that the actions of the government and their failures are now having such widespread impacts on New Zealanders.

"I've heard from spouses who haven't seen their partners in aged care for over two months. Loved ones who can't be with dying family members. Parents whose children have missed months of schooling and socialising.

"Women who've had cancer screening procedures delayed. Men who've had surgeries cancelled after waiting a long time for them. Parents who are trying to navigate co-parenting across alert levels. Families and whānau who just want to get together, have a meal and support each other.

"People who poured their life savings and years of hard work into a business, which is now done for. Loved ones of those suffering from a mental illness exacerbated by lockdowns; and so many more."

Collins has repeatedly criticised Ardern for her continued absence from Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, which has borne the brunt of Covid-19 lockdowns and the latest outbreak of the Delta variant, and did so again today.

"I don't want to see Kiwis turning against other Kiwis," she said.

"This is a government that has talked a lot about being kind - actually, go up to Auckland and stand up there and say 'go be kind'. I'll be up in Auckland next week, end of this week ... I won't be going around saying 'just be kind' because the number one thing that'll probably happen, someone might throw something."

Ardern however argued she did not need to have been in Auckland to understand the impact of the lockdowns on the city.

"The implication there is that I would have had to have been in lockdown for that entire period to understand the impact of a lockdown. Of course I understand the impact of a lockdown.

She said she was simply following the rules of Parliament, and visiting Auckland would mean she would be required to isolate for five days, which would affect her ability to fulfil the role of prime minister.

"Every workplace sets the rules to keep their workplace safe, those are the rules that I'm obliged to follow. But I also push back on the idea that that somehow means that we're unable or do not hear those in Auckland - of course we do which is why we continue to make changes to respond to the scale of the outbreak.

"I have family there, I have friends there, but also I have a duty to run the country and the rules that are set for this place at the moment mean that it would be hard for me to visit without then keeping me away from this place for a set period of time."

She said she and other government ministers had done everything they could to maintain contact with their colleagues in Auckland and the business community.

"We've done everything we can to respond to the business needs at the same time and all of us - every single minister - maintains contact with those there through our ministerial colleagues who are in that lockdown and sit at our Cabinet table.

"You'll see that our ongoing contact and work alongside the Chamber [of Commerce], with Business New Zealand and so on, reflects our desire to keep meeting the needs in these very difficult circumstances of those businesses."

Ardern defended the traffic light system as one that would ensure as many people as possible had freedom and could feel safe thanks to vaccinations.

"We know that the more cases of Covid-19 that we have the more likely it is we will continue to see transmission, and that causes disruption to everyone - the vaccinated and the unvaccinated - which is why we want to limit as much as possible those cases and one way we can do that is by using things like vaccination certificates."

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