'Hacktivists' and programmers are publishing software to help Kiwis trying to find precious spaces in Managed Isolation and Quarantine. However the government's cybersecurity agency CERTNZ has cautioned New Zealanders against downloading software from unknown sources.
Tools explicitly aimed at helping travellers book vouchers in MIQ have appeared on forums and websites since the beginning of the year. These range from browser plugins - which will alert travellers when space is freed up in MIQ - through to "bots" or automated programmes that claim to be able to reserve spaces, on behalf of travellers.
One publisher, currently based in Germany, said he was aware of similar programmes being used to help travellers navigate the MIQ booking system, but there was very little publicly available.
He built the programme to help his partner return home in March, during a surge in demand for vouchers.
"As she needed to travel back to New Zealand, we realised how hard it would be to get a spot in MIQ."
With spaces in Managed isolation very limited, the ethics of using the software was something that was hard to justify.
"It was obvious for me to release the software for everyone to use. Of course, ideally, the MIQ website would be built in a way that wouldn't require tools like this."
The UI designer and programmer, who was previously based in Wellington, was aware of how many people were struggling to find space to return to New Zealand and how few had the skillset to bypass the current system.
"Hopefully, by publishing, it's going to be fairer for everyone."
In a response to the Herald, MIQ said it was aware of "an incredibly small number" of places booked programmatically.
"It should be noted that there is a difference between bots achieving an actual booking – which we see almost no evidence of – and the kind of scripting which lets people know that a space has become available," said Brigadier Rose King, Joint Head of MIQ. "These notification services, which are available publically, don't book vouchers on behalf of subscribers; they still need to register and book themselves."
Currently the tools have had only limited reviews and engagement, mostly from programmers and IT professionals.
However, some travellers report being approached by programmers offering their services to secure spaces.
One such traveller, Danie Oosthuizen, said he was offered help by a hacker in January while in MIQ, while trying to secure vouchers for his wife and three children.
"He did not ask for any payment in return, just anonymity," said Oosthuizen, who said that the programmer was doing so to protest the unfairness of the system.
Oosthuizen said he was aware of at least four other families who had been helped by the hacker, since the encounter. The programme reportedly had "mimic a human" to bypass detection and reserve vouchers "on family or individual requirements."
Oosthuizen was clear that he refused the offer.
Even though he has been separated from his family, who remained in South Africa, for more than seven months - as an overseas worker on a visa he was concerned about affecting his right to work in New Zealand.
"I could get deported, I would have to stay out of the country for at least five years ... and if I wanted to go to another destination, that's going to be on my record forever," he said. "I want to do it fairly."
The lack of transparency on how the places are released and the routes by which other MIQ spaces were secured had increased the appeal of other work offers, in countries that were easier to travel to.
"It would mean going to a place that might have been my second choice for work, but I'd be able to see my family."
In the seven months trying to secure travel for his family, he has already missed his twin sons' first birthdays.
"It's time with my family and milestones that I'll never be able to get back."