Government urged to take firmer stance on MIQ late fees

National says there should be a much better system for collecting money for Managed Segregation and Quarantine (MIQ) stays, including using debt collectors when bills are overdue.

About $ 20 million is owed by those using the country’s managed isolation and quarantine hotels. (image file)
Photo: RNZ / Denise Garland

The government is waiting for 956 people to pay the outstanding MIQ fees.

To date, $ 11.7 million has been paid, but a total of $ 20 million remains overdue.

National MP Chris Bishop said New Zealanders would expect people to contribute to the total cost and the system should be better.

“They should really be billing people correctly, but also chasing people and we should be using debt collection agencies, for people who are really late paying the bills.”

But the government also needed to make it easier for people to pay, he said.

“Take your credit card details in advance when people are reserving seats. Most people are used to checking in at a hotel, you deposit your credit card, and we should do the same with MIQs, after all, they are literally hotels. “

Returnees who do not meet the fee waiver criteria have 90 days after leaving the hotel to pay for their stay.

But there is $ 3.2 million owed by people who missed that deadline.

The Department of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment says an additional $ 17 million is owed by people who are still within 90 days.

No late arrivals were referred to debt collection.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a privilege to go through MIQ and people who have not yet paid should do so.

“I think people should pay. At the end of the day, we asked New Zealanders to limit their travel because it is dangerous. For those who enjoy the privilege of being able to leave and then come back safely, we have them. ask to do the right thing and pay. “

The government is unable to prevent people from leaving the country if they have not paid. But Ardern said the government could collect overdue payments at the border when people return to the country, as it does with student loans.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the system needed to be improved and he was receiving advice on whether overdue payments could be collected at the border.

At the moment, this is only possible when people come to New Zealand.

“I’m looking at how we can tighten up some of that, I’m not happy that there’s this amount of money hanging around,” Hipkins said.

“They may not be able to pay up front, this is handled separately from the hotels, so we pay the hotels and then bill the people who stay there, but the bills should definitely be issued very quickly, more or less immediately after someone has completed their stay at MIQ “.

“We may need primary legislation to be able to do that in order for a law to be changed by Parliament… something that I would consider quite unacceptable,” Hipkins said.

Bishop didn’t believe the government should go so far as to stop people at the border if they had an overdue bill.

National Party MP Chris Bishop

National MP Chris Bishop said the government should resort to debt collectors when MIQ bills are overdue.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

“It’s hard to stop people from literally leaving the country… but what we can do is make it easier for people to pay and kick them out when they don’t.”

He said that if “the pressure is on”, collection agencies could be used overseas.

“If people have left the country, we can get that money back. There are ways for the government to do that and they should explore and use them.”

Sebastian Clarke, who came from New York to New Zealand to visit his family in January, said Noon report that he was still waiting for his bill.

Clarke told RNZ that he had not yet received a bill for $ 3,100 for his stay in hotel isolation, but wanted to pay it.

A spokesperson for MIQ said Clarke emailed an invoice for her stay on February 4.

The spokesperson said there could be an administrative error and urged Clarke to get in touch.

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