Time to wind down Defence Force’s MIQ mission

It is time for Operation Protect – the work by the Defence Force manning MIQ – to wind down, along with the entire MIQ system, says National’s Defence spokesperson Chris Penk.

“The response to National’s petition to end the MIQ lottery of human misery shows people want MIQ done away with.

“Removing the current burden of Operation Protect from the New Zealand Defence Force is hugely important too. The operation has required the Defence Force to man hotel accommodation converted for MIQ purposes for more than a year.

“While all Kiwis are grateful to Defence Force personnel who have secured the frontline in our fight against Covid, it’s time they got back to their normal duties.

“Defence Force resources have continued to be stretched very, very thin, and the burden of Operation Protect has weighed heavily for months and months, with no end in sight.

“As at November 5 this year, 861 Defence Force personnel were acting as either MIQ staff or security.

“In total, 1194 personnel are committed to the response, including personnel preparing to be deployed or those in respite following deployment.

“The stress and strain on our military has been considerable.  Significant costs have been incurred when it comes to the training of troops, maintenance of military assets and operational readiness generally.

“As glorified security guard duties wear very thin, attrition rates are mounting.  We are losing highly trained sailors, soldiers and air personnel, who didn’t sign on to watch hotel doors for weeks on end.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Minister of Defence has refused to set a date to end this Operation Protect commitment, as most of the men and women of the Defence Force are desperate for him to do.

“Just as MIQ is a lottery of human misery for Kiwis trying to get home, it’s also a misery for the Defence Force personnel ordered to staff it.”