I watched my mother pass away: Heartbroken kiwi says MIQ debacle can never happen again, calls for Government to apologise

A kiwi who had to watch his mum Angela die by video link is calling for the Government to apologise on how it operated Managed Isolation and Quarantine lottery system.

Paul Mulally told TVNZ that the Government needs to acknowledge it they got something wrong and that an apology needs to come sooner rather than later.

“The whole idea of being a citizen is that it is a place you can freely come and go from,” he said.

The Irish-born New Zealand citizen became emotional speaking about the morning his mother passed away in Ireland.

“I sat in my garage at 4am in the morning trying not to wake my daughter up while I watched my mother pass away. It’s not the nicest thing to have to do,” he said.

Mulally had applied for emergency MIQ spots so that his family could go to Ireland and then return to New Zealand after his mother’s condition deteriorated in January.

But he said they heard nothing back and even went to the lengths of calling politicians but unfortunately the application was never approved and was still pending at the time his mother died.

This comes as Justice Jillian Mallon released her decision on Wednesday and found that although MIQ was a critical component of the Government’s elimination strategy, the combination of the virtual lobby and narrow emergency criteria meant New Zealanders’ rights to enter their country was infringed.

“In some instances in a manner that was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” Justice Mallon said.

New Zealand citizen based in France, Rachel Bradley, is also calling on the Government to apologise after applying more than eight times to get back to New Zealand as her dad’s illness deteriorated.

“I completely agreed that we needed MIQ in New Zealand to protect New Zealand and the citizens of New Zealand but there should never be a situation where any kiwi in any part of the world says hi, I’m in trouble, I need help, I need to come home and your government says to you no,” she said.

“This can never happen again… we’re going to have another situation like this in the future, it’s inevitable, and this is setting a precedent that this can’t happen again.”

A Waikato University law professor believes not only is an apology required, but a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the country’s entire Covid-19 response is needed.

“If any government unjustifiably restricts the rights of its own citizens, an apology is the least they can do,” said Alexander Gillespie.

Gillespie said there might be more to consider before an apology is made – like whether the end of legal process has been reached and if the Government plans to defend what has been deemed unfair by the High Court.

He said he’d like to see a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the entire handling of the pandemic.

“Pretty much every aspect of New Zealand life (legally, socially, economically) was impacted upon by the pandemic. I see this current instance and another example of the overall need to sit back, and take an overall review of what worked, what didn’t, and how we should improve for the future,” said Gillespie.

Advocates for New Zealanders who were stuck overseas and unable to come home are welcoming the High Court ruling which found that the MIQ lottery system was unfair.

London-based Grounded Kiwis spokeswoman Alexandra Birt stayed up all night to hear the decision.

“To have recognition that the MIQ lottery was not justified, and was a flawed system that breached the rights of New Zealand citizens overseas, was obviously a huge decision, and very emotional,” she said.

Yesterday, the High Court found the MIQ lottery “did not sufficiently allow individual circumstances to be considered and prioritised”, and the emergency allocation categories were too tight.

Justice Mallon did find the requirement for returnees to undergo MIQ was lawful and was not an unjustified infringement of New Zealanders’ rights to come home.

But she said it was inevitable the system would operate unjustly when demand exceeded supply.

Dual New Zealand Bulgarian citizen Vanya Petkova tried six times to get a spot in MIQ, with no success.

“It’s very frustrating, it’s like you hope with all your soul to happen. It’s frustration, but then after that has come, angry,” she said.

Finally, on her seventh go, Petkova won the MIQ lottery.

She had strong words for those who came up with the idea.

“I just hope not to need any more of such a thing in my life, and hope people who have been unfair, and who breached our rights and made so many people in big trouble to get what they deserve,” she said.

Birt said the Government needed to apologise to people like Petkova.

“This whole time what we’ve been seeking is some recognition from the Government that the way the system operated did impact on people and was not a justified system.

“We’ve had that recognition now from the courts, and we’d hope that the Government would stand by that and say ‘yes, we could have done better’.”

ACT Party leader David Seymour said an apology, whether formal or informal, would go a long way.

“Unfortunately, increasingly it seems that everybody realises the Government’s done something wrong except the Government, who appear incapable of contrition.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged the court’s finding “for some citizens, the virtual lobby system as it operated between 1 September and 17 December 2021, may have infringed their right to enter New Zealand”.

In a statement, he said the Government was “carefully considering the court’s decision”.

National Party MP Chris Bishop said the Government should just accept it.

“They should not appeal, and they should apologise to everyone who’s been negatively affected by the extraordinary MIQ system that has now been judicially criticised.”

Grounded Kiwis’ Martin Newell told Checkpoint he wanted something more than an apology: An official inquiry.

“Whether it’s a royal commission of inquiry or some sort of independent inquiry, we need to sit down and look at the entire response and how we can do it better. Because this will not be the last pandemic, and we need to be prepared for when the next one comes,” he said.

Another group, Lobby New Zealand, is calling on the Government to make a Crown apology to all New Zealanders impacted by the MIQ system.

“The right to freely enter New Zealand is one of the most important tokens of New Zealand citizenship, and for the Government to constitute legal entry via means of a ‘lottery’ system was and remains a poor – and illegal – policy action,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“Whether it’s New Zealanders trapped overseas on expired visas, pregnant Kiwis being denied entry, split migrant families, or Kiwis denied the ability to farewell dying family members, a Crown apology is justified given Justice Mallon’s ruling.”

Additional reporting by Giles Dexter of RNZ

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