The advocacy group argued that the system is inconsistent with New Zealand's Bill of Rights
Advocacy group Grounded Kiwis has challenged New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system in the Wellington High Court.
The case was brought against the Minister of Health, the Minister for COVID-19 Response and the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
In proceedings held on 14 and 15 February, the group contended before Justice Jillian Mallon that the system breaches section 18(2) of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, which provides for citizens’ right to return to New Zealand.
Grounded Kiwis called for a judicial review into the current systems used to allocate managed isolation places and sought a declaration of inconsistency. The group submitted that while COVID-19 positive New Zealanders were permitted to self-isolate at home, the same rights had not been afforded to overseas returnees, most of whom have been fully vaccinated and had undergone testing before travelling.
In a statement published by 1News, Paul Radich QC, who represented the advocacy group, said that the current pendulum is “firmly in the wrong place.” He pointed out that putting too much emphasis on public health considerations “at the expense of a real understanding of the way in which the fundamental right to be here is to take effect.”
As COVID-19 evolves, the “one-size-fits-all” approach to the MIQ system does not allow for appropriate discretion or consideration of returnees’ circumstances, Radich explained.
“There comes a point where there can’t be a continual denial of the right to enter,” he said in a statement published by the NZ Herald.
Since filing the judicial review in October 2021, Grounded Kiwis has raised more than $197,000 to fund its legal costs.
Radio New Zealand reported that the government acknowledged the hardships of affected Kiwis, but argued the system was “proportionate to the risks the country faced.”
“This system is about bringing New Zealanders home, and the objective of that system was both to prevent the harm of the pandemic and to protect those section 18(2) rights,” lawyer Aedeen Boadita-Cormican said in a statement presented by Radio New Zealand.
The New Zealand border is set to reopen to returnees from Australia at the end of the month, kickstarting the gradual easing of the MIQ system.
The Wellington High Court has yet to release its decision on the case.