Border Protection Agency/Te Korowai Whakamaru

 

National will establish a single Crown Agency to unify the Government response to securing our border – the first and best line of defence New Zealand has against COVID-19.

The current arrangements are ad-hoc and have been assembled in haste. Various agencies are in charge of different facets of securing our border, which has led to a disorderly and confused response, miscommunication and insufficient testing. This was exposed in August and led to a major lockdown across the Auckland region.

New Zealand needs a coordinated and professional response for the years to come, with a well trained workforce within a structured and compliance-focused agency.

The Agency would be accountable to a dedicated minister, who would set the priority of operational excellence.

Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency would enhance the all-of Government response model by establishing a single agency to coordinate the Government’s response. National would begin work on
implementing the Agency immediately upon taking office, establishing it within our first 100 days.

Detail:

  • The Agency would report to a single minister whose focus will be keeping New Zealand free from the risks of COVID-19 and other pandemic threats.
  • The Agency will have overall control of the response when dealing with an outbreak, including the ability to order compliance with agency policies and oversee the response from other agencies such as the Ministry of Health, District Health Boards and other agencies operating at points of entry.
  • The Agency will be empowered to make orders to ensure compliance with the policies it sets.
  • The Agency will be responsible for managing co-payment for the costs of managed isolation.
  • All Agency workers who are in contact with people in managed isolation would be required to have a COVID-19 test weekly.
  • All Agency workers would be required to carry contact tracing technology as it becomes available.
  • The Agency would establish policy to manage capacity for safe entry into New Zealand.

This agency will be resourced to act as a centre of expertise with the personnel, technology and capability to provide a world-class defence against COVID-19. They will manage the response in the event of an incursion.

The Agency would not replace any current ministry or department but would draw on the resources across Government, including officials and staff, working within the border and managed isolation system.

The Agency would develop and implement long-term policies and plans for safe and efficient international travel and people movement. In the shorter term, the agency will administer policy and procedures for:

  • Approving operations and developing protocols for managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and provide security.
  • Ensuring effective training and safety protocols for all staff involved in border control, managed isolation and quarantine.
  • Managing protocols for port movements, freight and testing procedures at ports.
  • Receiving returning Kiwis and visitors at the border, and ensuring pre-border checks for people coming into New Zealand.
  • Transferring people to managed isolation facilities.
  • Acting as a centre of expertise on pandemic containment and best practice.
  • Facilitating planning with businesses to ensure safe practices. Specifically tailoring plans for small business, retailers and manufacturers.
  • Considering expansion of entry qualifications and timing.

Heightened border management will be required for the foreseeable future. Even beyond the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, there will need to be procedures at the border to ensure the ongoing safety of New Zealanders.

Why a unified response is required

The cost of the current approach is estimated to be close to half a billion dollars for managed isolation and quarantine facilities in 2020 alone. While border control is expensive, it is cheaper than the alternative: periodic lockdowns.

But an expensive and ineffective system is the worst outcome. National will manage the border effectively to keep New Zealanders safe.

Border management to date has not been satisfactory. It has been ad-hoc and has resulted in a confused response from government departments and private services, heightening the risk to New Zealanders.

The current management requires synchronisation between large numbers of agencies:

Government Agencies Non-government organisations
   
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Hotels
Customs Health Staff
Immigration Security
Aviation Security Transport (Buses)
Primary Industries Iwi
Health  
Defence  
Police  
Civil Defence  
Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment  
District Health Boards  
Local Government  


This is all currently coordinated by a senior military officer reporting to the Minister of Housing.

Securing the border

Testing at the border is required to make sure the Government is identifying and managing active cases. Ensuring access and availability to testing is critical. However, there have been numerous issues of testing procedures not being followed, with inconsistencies in required testing of individuals in managed isolation and quarantine.

National would follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also receive a test for COVID-19, or a subsequent pandemic virus, three days before departure and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane.

National would:

  • Require people travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving into New Zealand.
  • Pre boarding thermal imaging and completion of health declaration card.
  • Deploy compulsory contact tracing technology for Agency workers, workers in border facilities and points of entry, and District Health Board staff treating or testing patients.
  • Ensure new arrivals can be adequately contact traced by requiring compulsory use of contact tracing technology.
  • Require another test within three days of arrival as well as a test on day 12.
  • Implement thermal imaging at points of entry.
  • Require arrivals to complete a health declaration card.


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