Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has lobbed a broadside at the "completely failed" MIQ system and the pace of the vaccines rollout.
In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Key said the rollout had been "too slow" and more "tension" was needed to spur people to get vaccinated.
"It just hasn't been well-executed plan."
"I think if the Government told everyone 'we are offering you two jabs by Christmas, and after that the border is going to open up' then there would be some tension in the system for people to get vaccinated. In the absence of that, I worry whether they will hit the numbers that they want.
Because New Zealand has to, at some point, re-emerge into the global world. And [without high vaccinations rate] you run the risk Covid will get into the community as it has in Australia."
He was also scathing about the clogged MIQ system, which people were struggling to get spaces in.
"It is just not true that this is the only way of dealing with it, and if it is the only way of dealing with it then they have to meet the capacity demands which they are utterly failing to do."
"There is just no excuse for MIQ being such a failure. You need more capacity and there's no reason you can't have more capacity. There are plenty of other hotels that can be used for MIQ.
"The Government has to get more creative. Around the rest of the world, people are not being expected to MIQ for 14 days. There's no reason, when you're double vaccinated, people can't do home isolation and testing."
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to outline what might happen in the next six months, but she has said she will not set a vaccination rate target – despite saying it will be critical for New Zealand to move on the borders.
Australia has said it will ease back on lockdowns once 70 per cent of people are vaccinated, and open the borders more at 80 per cent.
In New Zealand, the findings of the Government's Covid-19 health advisory group will also be released, setting out its thinking. The various groups in the Reconnecting New Zealand strategy have been considering ideas such as home isolation for vaccinated travellers.
Key said if MIQ was going to be used for the near future, the Government had to up its game.
"I think MIQ is a completely failed entity. The fact that people can't book a spot, they're having to resort to paying a lot of money to a bot and even then can't get a slot tells you the system has failed."
He said he had supported last year's lockdowns and the border closures.
"They weren't options that a state in America or a country in Europe had."
However, at some point it had to end and if that relied on vaccination rates, the Government needed to hurry it up.
He said New Zealand relied on being globally connected.
"As long as we have closed borders we won't be able to grow through the skilled labour we need to import, or we will have higher levels of inflation than we want."
He said the sharp cost increases in shipping and logistics would add to the household shopping bill, and there was "rampant inflation" in the housing and construction sector.
Key was talking to the Herald on Sunday before his 60th birthday on Monday.
Key said while the years had flashed by he was quite comfortable with that.
As he turns 60, he is trying to prove you can teach an old dog new tricks by learning to fly a helicopter.
"I'm currently learning to fly a helicopter, so [son] Max thinks I'm having a mid-life crisis. If that is the case I'll live to 120, and that's really good."
Key said he was about halfway through the course, and his golf handicap (now 6.3) had taken a bit of a hit because he had been focusing more on the helicopter. He was learning in a Bell 206.
Much to his amusement, his wife Bronagh was refusing to fly with him and Key had to tell her whenever he had landed safely.
"She is very happy when I'm on terra firma. She has declared hell will freeze over before she ever flies with me."
"I was ambitious for New Zealand, and now I'm ambitious to return to the heli-pad," he joked.
Key is still in touch with former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who is also a helicopter pilot, but said McCaw was not the one teaching him.
"I can't tell you who is, or you'll interview them about my hovering techniques. I have rung [McCaw], though, and chatted helicopters instead of rugby for the first time."
Key said Bronagh had wanted to plan something big for his birthday, but he was settling for something a bit more low-key – unless she had gone for a surprise option.
That was mainly because Covid-19 meant family and friends could not come from overseas.
Max was around, but his daughter Stephanie was overseas. She had come over at Christmas, but would not be there for his 60th. "I told her it wasn't worth it. She wouldn't even be able to get an MIQ spot."
The border closures had meant Key could not escape to his usual bolthole on Maui in Hawaii. Key revealed he and he and Bronagh have now sold their old holiday unit, sight unseen, to people from Canada.
They had now bought a new house on the island, which was undergoing major renovations.
"So if ever there was a good year not to go to Hawaii, this was it."
The new place was on the beach and he was hoping to be able to get there again at the end of the year.
Asked if the big 60 had snuck him up on, he said he'd had a whole year of being 59 to get used to it.
"When you're 59, you certainly live in hope that 60 will emerge at some point.
"But yes, the years have flashed by. When I think I became Prime Minister in my mid-40s, it seems quite a while ago now."
"I don't feel the need to have a massive bash, but equally I'm not either concerned or fearful of the fact I'm turning 60. I just feel quite comfortable with it."
Key said he had taken the precaution of a thorough medical check, and was declared fit and healthy.
"So far, every bit of me is in good nick."
That is more than can be said for the party he once led.
Key is still involved with the party, helping with fundraising. He will spend today at the National Party conference in Auckland.
He does not intend to deliver another tongue-lashing, such as his warning against leaking and disunity at a party conference in 2020.
However, he had a few tips for his party as it continues to struggle in the polls.
"There is only one way to win back support, and that is to have shape internally and to make sure you are consistently arguing the issues that matter to New Zealand."
There was a long pause when he was asked if National was achieving the latter: leader Judith Collins has been accused of going off message by talking about issues such as race and hate speech laws.
"All I can tell you is if you look at the issues in New Zealand, one of them is the complete failure of the MIQ system and the slowness of the rollout. The second is going to be cost of living increases."
Asked if the leadership of Collins was an issue, he said she was working hard "and doing the best in difficult circumstances."
"It's easy to be critical [of National] because obviously the support is not there at the levels it was, but Covid is a difficult thing to combat when you're in Opposition. There have been some self-inflicted wounds but crises always favour the incumbent."
On Act's recent success in the polls, Key said Act was always the ballast to National and it was clear some National voters were now voting for Act.
"To be fair to David Seymour, I think he's doing a good job. I was always impressed with him when I worked with him in Parliament.
But National has to grow its base support back, and obviously some of that will come at the expense of Act. Some of it will be the softer voters who voted Labour in the last election."