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Travellers required to contribute towards their managed isolation hotel stay will pay $3100 per room and $950 for each extra adult and $475 per child.

But there will be mechanisms to allow charges to be waived in full or in part, the Government has revealed today.

However today's decision has divided the coalition Government - with Winston Peters saying everyone should be required to pay the charge.

The announcement came as health officials revealed there were two new Covid-19 cases today - both travellers in managed isolation.

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The Government announced the legislation today which it intends to be rushed through Parliament in the next two weeks before the House rises ahead of the general election.

Today's decision will mean a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) charge for:

• People who leave New Zealand after the legislation comes into effect; or

• People who are visiting New Zealand temporarily.

"I think every New Zealand would agree that if I'm going on holiday, I wouldn't expect the New Zealand taxpayer pick up that fee when I return," Cabinet Minister Megan Woods told reporters.

The legislation is not supported by NZ First - which has invoked the "agree to disagree" provisions of their coalition agreement with Labour.

Woods said she was aware NZ First will vote for the legislation but that they also would rather the country went further. This was the best option by law and the best balanced approached that was fair, Woods said.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said they wanted all returnees charged as it was "grossly unfair" to burden taxpayers with the cost of the MIQ system.

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Some travellers exempt from paying

Diplomats, refugees, deportees and people travelling to attend the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque gunman will be exempt from the charges.

Woods said the Covid-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill provides a legal framework to allow the Government to set payment terms, exempt groups of people and waive charges in cases of financial hardship.

It will also ensure that recovered charges do not exceed the actual costs of managed isolation and quarantine.

"We are carefully balancing the rights of New Zealand citizens and residents to return home and the charges structure will be designed to maintain this right.

"This solution balances the rights of New Zealanders to return home, while ensuring those who choose to holiday here, or holiday overseas before returning home, are contributing to the considerable cost of managed isolation," said Woods.

Cabinet Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb are speaking in the Beehive about managed isolation. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Cabinet Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb are speaking in the Beehive about managed isolation. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government has set aside a total of $479 million to pay for the costs of Managed Isolation facilities until the end of the year.

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And an estimated 600,000 to 900,000 New Zealand citizens are living overseas, with around 400,000 to 600,000 living in Australia. It is unknown how many are intending to return.

Woods said every confirmed Covid-19 case in June and July has been linked to international travel.

"Our managed isolation and quarantine system is working. It is keeping Covid-19 at the border and stopping community transmission."

The Government said the charge didn't impede the New Zealanders' right to come home because:

• People are not charged any more than the actual and reasonable costs of MIQ,

• Fees can be waived in cases of financial hardship,

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• No upfront payment would be required, and

• There will be flexibility in how people could pay.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb told reporters the country had 900 Kiwis return in the last week and officials were forecasting another 1872 in the next week.

Woods said if we looked at a universal charge but put in place waivers for rights for New Zealanders to return home we would only have saved $125m by the end of the year and the cost would be $135m.

Any New Zealander returning home would be contributing to New Zealand by paying taxes.

"That is a category that shouldn't be charging," she said.

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It was fair that New Zealanders choosing to travel amid a pandemic should be charged, Wood said.

New Zealanders travelling for less than 90 days will be charged on their return.

NZ First wants everyone to pay

NZ First has invoked the "agree to disagree" provision of the Coalition Agreement because it cannot support the "miniscule population of qualifying people", Peters said.

NZ First wanted all returnees charged at least part of the costs via Inland Revenue, in a similar arrangement to the Student Loan Scheme.

This move was not supported by the Greens in Cabinet who opposed a blanket charge.

Travellers will pay $3100 per room and $950 for each extra adult and $475 per child.
Travellers will pay $3100 per room and $950 for each extra adult and $475 per child.

Peters accused the Green Party of "putting naked political self-interest ahead of a prudent public policy response to the burdens being faced by domestic taxpayers who are, after all, underwriting the full costs of the MIQ regime".

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"It is quite clear to New Zealand First that Labour/Green opposition to a more equitable and consistent MIQ charging regime opens them to the allegation that they are being overtly political," Peters said.

"Why? Again, the Greens and Labour leave themselves open to the perception that they see New Zealanders overseas as a source of votes for the looming General Election, so public policy integrity has given way to electoral strategy.

"This is grossly unfair on the New Zealand taxpayer, burdened with the burgeoning cost of maintaining the MIQ system."

Greens support the charge

"The Green Party are making sure Kiwis who need to return to New Zealand to live are not charged a $3000 fee," said Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

"Kiwis who are returning to New Zealand temporarily can have a fee waived on compassionate grounds or if they're experiencing financial hardship.

"As a country, we should be supporting people to come home if that is what is needed for their wellbeing. New Zealand is their home and they have a right to come back.

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"Kiwis overseas are facing job losses, financial insecurity, and not knowing when they'll see their families again. Now is not the time to be making things harder for our people overseas.

"There is of course a balance, and for people choosing to leave New Zealand for overseas holidays or business trips from now on, it's only fair they contribute to the cost of isolation when they return. It is also fair that Kiwis who choose to come back for a short trip, but it is not for compassionate reasons and they have the money to contribute, should do so."

Introducing a charge for going through managed isolation or quarantine - which costs taxpayers on average $4000 per person - would require a legislative change.

Q & A: How the charging system will work

Once the regulations come into force, it is proposed New Zealanders, and residents and temporary visa holders will have to pay charges as below:

Any New Zealander, who either:

• Leaves New Zealand after the regulations come into force or

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• Is visiting New Zealand for less than 90 days

Any temporary visa holder, unless:

•They were ordinarily resident in New Zealand as of 19 March 2020, and

• They departed New Zealand on or before March 19, 2020, and

•They are not entering New Zealand on a border exception as a critical worker.

I'm a New Zealander hoping to return to New Zealand soon. Will I have to pay?

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New Zealanders who are currently overseas (i.e who left before the regulations came into force) will not have to pay if they stay in New Zealand for 90 days or longer.

I'm a New Zealander about to go on holiday. Will I have to pay when I return?

If you leave New Zealand after the regulations come into force, it is proposed that you would have to pay for your managed isolation unless you qualify for a waiver or are otherwise exempt.

Is this legal?

Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, New Zealanders have the right to enter New Zealand. This means anything that prevents or impedes that right to return to New Zealand needs to be justified.

Charging people for their stays in MIQ affects this right to enter New Zealand. That's why we are taking extra care to make sure that:

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• People are not charged any more than the actual and reasonable costs of MIQ,

• Fees can be waived in cases of financial hardship,

• No upfront payment would be required, and

• There will be flexibility in how people could pay.

What does Australia charge?

Several Australian States and Territories have announced quarantine charges in the last few weeks. For example, New South Wales charges all international passengers including Australian citizens and permanent residents in hotel quarantine AU$3,000 (about $3,200) with lower rates for additional children and adults sharing accommodation.

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How many Kiwis are overseas?

An estimated 600,000 to 900,000 New Zealand citizens are living overseas, with around 400,000 to 600,000 living in Australia. It is unknown how many are intending to return.

How long will we have the managed isolation and quarantine system for?

It is impossible to tell how the situation develops internationally and in New Zealand. Our priority is keeping New Zealand safe. The Government is working to make the system sustainable and manageable for as long as we need it and it is expected the system will be amended as appropriate.

Why is self-isolation at home not allowed?

Our experience from February and March 2020, before managed isolation and quarantine was introduced, showed that compliance with self-isolation requirements by people arriving in New Zealand was patchy and could not be relied on

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