A managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) hotel has been instructed by the Government to stop charging guests for upgrades to a luxury penthouse suite.
In December the Herald revealed that Auckland's Grand Millennium Hotel had upgraded two families who were undergoing 14 days' MIQ to the hotel's spacious, top-floor apartment.
Officials said the extra cost associated with the stays was borne by the families, not taxpayers, and they were upgraded by the hotel due to "particular employment and child-based needs".
The Herald sought further information about the cases through the Official Information Act.
In a statement, MIQ general manager engagement and service design Stacey Munro-Flynn said after learning about the upgrades from the Herald, MIQ leadership instructed the hotel's general manager to immediately cease and desist.
"These suites are not contracted to MBIE and are generally not available for isolation guests. In each case, hotel management offered the use of these rooms for an extra charge at the guests' expense ... payable to the hotel.
"However, the type of arrangement where guests are moved to larger rooms not contracted to MBIE is not part of the hotel's accommodation contract with MIQ.
"When MIQ leadership became aware of hotel management arranging for this to occur they advised the general manager of the hotel to immediately stop the practice."
Munro-Flynn said in other cases where hotels had allocated families extra or bigger rooms to suit their needs, the rooms had been contracted to MIQ "and the hotel cannot charge extra for this".
The Herald asked Grand Millennium spokesman Takeshi Ito why the hotel had upgraded guests to rooms outside its contract with MIQ, how much it had charged the families and whether the money had subsequently been repaid.
Ito did not respond.
Both MBIE and the hotel have refused to say how much extra the families were charged for the upgrades.
Standard rooms at the hotel are 36sq m and usually charged out commercially at about $250 a night.
The hotel's suites range in size from 72sq m for a Junior Suite with Balcony up to 108sq m M Suite, which typically costs about $800 a night.
The "elegant apartment-style accommodation" boasts an entrance foyer, separate bedroom with Californian king bed, open plan living, luxury bathroom with "his and hers" vanities, and views over Auckland City.
Munro-Flynn confirmed the Grand Millennium cases were the only incidents of returnees being charged for luxury suite upgrades that MIQ was aware of nationally.
However, about 90 suites contracted to MIQ were usually made available to returnee families with multiple children or people with special needs.
Guests could not choose which rooms they were allocated. Decisions on room changes were made at the discretion of hotel management in association with district health board "wellbeing" teams.
In December, Act Party leader David Seymour told the Herald MIQ management should be transparent and flexible, allowing people to use bigger rooms if their needs required it and their means allowed.
"Instead they've done the complete opposite and said no one can use the rooms, which seems ridiculous with thousands of people unable to book a room in our ridiculously constrained MIQ network," Seymour said today.
The Government introduced a charge last year for returning Kiwis to recoup some of the multimillion-dollar MIQ cost.
New Zealand residents going overseas for less than 90 days, and all non-NZ residents, were supposed to pay $3100 since August 11.
However, the Herald revealed last week that only a third of travellers staying at quarantine hotels have paid their bills, with almost $20m still outstanding.