COMMENT:

Kiwi families who have kids living overseas and who want to get together this Christmas can forget it - unless they're well-heeled.

Consider this: You have three grown-up kids living offshore with their partners and two of them have one child each.

To come back home and spend time with their family here the all-up cost is isolate in an hotel for a fortnight, as they are required to do, would be $13,100 - and that's before they pay for their airfares.

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And returning to the country they're currently living in would cost around the same again.

There will be no Christmas get-together for my family, because that's what it would cost them before they can sit around the table on the outside.

There will be many grandparents in this situation and what for? A piddling saving on the isolation bill of less than $10 million, which will cost $600,000 to administer, out of a spend approaching half a billion dollars this year.

Housing Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb after announcing legislation to allow the Government to recover some of the costs for managed isolation. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Housing Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb after announcing legislation to allow the Government to recover some of the costs for managed isolation. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Today's Government decision is tokenism, pure and simple - creating two classes of New Zealand citizens. It makes the Government look as though it's doing something to stem the flow of money being shovelled daily out the door.

But Kiwis who have lived abroad for many years and are feeling threatened in the country they've called home can come back here to live and stay in a hotel courtesy of the taxpayer. There's no penalty on them.

Since March more than 30,000 Kiwis have returned home and have gone through isolation. If they now feel like returning to the country they've come from they can do so without penalty.

The public would surely be more sympathetic if the isolation cost was applied to Kiwis who go abroad, for a holiday or for business, and then return here.

As a piece of public policy this is puerile.

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The isolation cost should either apply to everyone or no-one - and it shouldn't be as steep as this Government's imposing.

It would be considerably cheaper to require each Kiwi returning here to buy and be fitted with a wrist tracker (which can be bought online for as little as $50). Once they have attached that, get the army in to drive them to their home destination, and monitor and penalise them if they're seen moving from their property.

That might sound simplistic but so too is the Government's charging regime.

It's obviously done with the election in mind, the returning votes can't be discounted.