The certain demise of the NZ SailGP event to be held on Lyttleton Harbour in Christchurch, 29-30 January 2022, is a death-nail to other events involving international competitors to New Zealand. Couple this to the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, announcing that his office has received over 700 complaints since the beginning of July regarding the MIQ (managed isolation quarantine) system, and it all points to a systemic problem with current Government policy and systems surrounding the comings and goings of both NZ citizens and international visitors.
The chances of international drivers joining the grid of the 2022 Castrol Toyota Racing Series took a dive this week with the confirmation on Tuesday that the SailGP application for access to MIQ facilities for teams and staff to enter New Zealand ahead of the NZ Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch had been declined by central government.
The Ombudsman’s office* is set to start an investigation into the current MIQ policies and systems. As Boshier has pointed out, when you receive so many complaints from Kiwis focused on one entity in such a short space in time, it points to a systemic failure.
While media report, and seem to think, that there are 4,000 spots available in MIQ facilities, every two weeks, Boshier pointed out in his interview with Radio New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon that he believed the figure was approximately 2,500, less approximately 350 set outside for emergencies.
Given that the numbered of MIQ spaces required by SailGP is around 166, this equates to nearly eight percent of available spaces in a two-week period in January 2022. Obviously too many for MIQ!
The Press reported on Wednesday 18 August 2021 that the Minister of Sport, Grant Robertson, had confirmed SailGP’s MIQ application was considered by a group of officials who decided “not to progress the proposal for ministerial consideration.”
“This was due to the request coming during a period of high demand for returning New Zealanders.”
This does not bode well for international drivers coming down under for the 2022 Castrol Toyota Racing Series that is also expected to get underway in January. There will be no spaces available.
If it is that difficult for Kiwis to come back to NZ that it has prompted an investigation, and for the chief Ombudsman to speak publicly on the matter, then there is little chance of internationals returning. The question that needs to be asked is why is it so much more difficult than 12 months ago? With the difficulties of entering NZ and isolating, it may well also stop Shane van Gisbergen, along with other Kiwi drivers, returning from his base in Australia to defend his NZ Grand Prix title.
The continuing challenges for TOYOTA GAZOO NZ Racing (the Castrol Toyota Racing Series organisers), the local organisers of SailGP (including both the Christchurch City Council and the Naval Point Yacht Club) and general Kiwi business are not made easy by the current government policies, processes and systems that appear to stymie growth and economic benefit. Is it like the housing market, the slow rates of vaccination and the labour market? The focus should be on freeing up supply and creating flow. More MIQ spaces would be a start.
* Note: The Ombudsman is an independent office from the Government set up to deal with public sector agencies. Handling complaints and undertaking investigations and inspections in order to encourage good administration.