In a damning indictment of the way New Zealand people were treated, the High Court has deemed the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) virtual lobby system "not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".
Quite rightly, it's being hailed as vindicating those who were hurt by being forced to take a number and wait in a virtual queue and hope their number came up. Some of the people, our people, forced into this indignity and repeated disappointment were badly let down. There were 200 complaints to the Ombudsman in the first month of operation.
Our border officials introduced the process after our limited MIQ facilities neared being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of New Zealanders wanting back into Aotearoa.
Justice Jillian Mallon has now ruled the combination of the virtual lobby and narrow emergency criteria to circumvent the lobby meant New Zealanders' right to enter their country was infringed.
On balance, there is no other possible conclusion. Denigrating New Zealanders as numbers, without regard for their circumstances, is an egregious wrong.
This follows an earlier court ruling that mandates for vaccination of police and defence personnel were unlawful.
When weighing the consequences of this outcome, one key consideration is: was New Zealand a "free and democratic society" while under unprecedented public health response?
Forced closures of businesses and public amenities, loss of the freedom of movement, and mandated vaccinations for many occupations would not normally fit the description of a free society.
New Zealand was on a wartime footing, and under constantly changing public health orders.
It was to some degree the success of these restrictions which led many to seek entry back into New Zealand. It was simply one of the safest places to be.
Many trying to return had compelling reasons to be readmitted to the country, some did not. It would have proven onerous to review each case on merit and provide reasons for declining or accepting. Appeals and litigation would have inevitably followed from those disappointed in the decision.
The situation was brought about by a failure to anticipate the numbers wanting to return to New Zealand, and being able to accommodate them. Once the border neared being overwhelmed, there was no fair and timely method to screen applicants.
Many of the restrictions put in place during the onset of the initial wave and the Delta variant were also installed hastily and might not also stand judicial scrutiny. But to what point? All of New Zealand suffered, many decisions were flat-out wrong, and delivery shoddy, some have demanded redress.
Most experts agree that thousands of lives were saved by the overall response to the threat this virus posed and, let's not forget, still poses.
A full review of New Zealand's response to the pandemic should be conducted; faults identified and laid bare. This is where lessons can truly be learned and those who felt unjustly treated can air their grievances - in the full context of an overview and cognisant of the overall situation this nation and the world outside were facing.