By Jordan Bond of RNZ
A website is trying to capitalise on the difficulty of booking a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) room by offering to do so for $2415 per person, and is increasing its prices daily.
A number of websites and online contractors are offering their expertise, many using a coding script to partially automate the process.
They charge varying amounts, from $150 to thousands. The current price of one is $2415, which increased from $1200 just yesterday. One man does it for free.
MIQ said the system allowed these third-party booking services.
MIQ rooms are currently booked out until the end of November, but occasionally as some people cancel their bookings a small number will appear.
Demand is so high that these newly available rooms disappear within seconds.
Many people refresh the page every minute, hoping a new room will appear, and they can get through the booking process - which includes providing your personal details - before anyone else.
However, increasingly commonly used now is a short piece of "script" that is freely available, which constantly scans and refreshes the bookings website, alerts users to new rooms and auto-fills their details immediately.
This gives the script users a few valuable seconds' headstart to try to get the booking before someone checking and applying manually.
MIQ "strongly discourages" the use of the script. It refers to it as a "notification service" which is publically available.
It says the managed isolation allocation system is designed to give people an equal opportunity to secure a voucher, and any fully automated "bots" are stopped.
MIQ joint head Megan Main said the booking system had performed "extremely well".
Difficulties in securing a space were due to high levels of demand for a product with limited supply, she said.
"The Managed Isolation Allocation System is designed to give users equal opportunity to gain a voucher. The system allows third parties to book on behalf of people who feel less confident with technology, including travel agents and family members.
"As with all aspects of our Covid-19 response, we are continuing to review our policies and procedures to ensure they remain fit for purpose, and keep our wider community safe. That includes exploring options including waitlisting and working on ways to release as many spaces as practicable at appropriately spaced out intervals.
"It should be noted that even with a form of waiting list, there would still be insufficient spaces to fulfil the demand to come to New Zealand."