Act leader David Seymour has made a whistle-stop visit to Auckland for the first time since the Delta outbreak, saying it had given him a greater appreciation of the struggle those in the city are facing.
"It's pretty dismal, much worse than last year. There was nothing I didn't know in theory, but when you hear about it in person it changes the priority of it."
It was Seymour's first trip back to Auckland since mid-August, when the first Delta case was detected in the community and the city put into lockdown.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also not returned since then, saying that it would be impractical given Speaker Trevor Mallard's requirement for MPs returning to Wellington from a level 3 region to do five days in isolation before entering Parliament.
Ardern has said she keeps in touch with Auckland through feedback from her ministers in the city, and speaking virtually with other people and businesses.
However, Seymour said being in the city had driven home to him the reality of 10 weeks of lockdown and the Prime Minister should take that time.
"There's the intellectual world and the world of feelings. I'm usually the last person to be talking about feelings, but you have to look these people in the eye instead of on a Zoom screen. There's a lot of human welfare things that have not been given the weight they should have. The desperation is real, despite people putting a brave face on it."
Seymour talked to business owners and a few passersby in Newmarket, Remuera and Mt Eden and got a saliva test at Rako ahead of his planned return to Wellington on Friday. He will then do five days isolation, as per the Speaker's rules.
He said there was despondency and uncertainty about whether things would change in time for December.
"One woman said they had just given up, that they could have people around for picnics but did not want to and had nothing to talk about. People have just withdrawn."
National Party leader Judith Collins repeatedly called for Ardern to front up to those in the city, saying Ardern needed to see first-hand the impact that those lockdowns and lack of certainty about when things would ease are having - it was instructive.
Collins is back in Auckland for a few days – Parliament is in recess next week.