26 Sep 2023
We're sure everyone will be relieved with Auckland moving to Alert Level 2, and the rest of the country moving to Alert Level 1, this Sunday at 6am.
However, the recent community cases of COVID-19, and the resulting lockdown of Auckland, have been troubling. Not just for the revelations that unfolded over the last few weeks about who at the border is or is not required to be tested regularly, the delay in issuing Health Orders and notices, confusing communication, and the rather sloppy processes to follow up testing and isolation requirements, but that these issues are not new.
If we are to ensure that lockdowns are a matter of last resort of containment, rather than a blunt tool, it is critical that the Government learns from these experiences and actually takes steps to adapt and improve its processes.
The changing nature of COVID-19 means we must thoughtfully debate and consider how to improve the status quo to avoid large scale disruption to the lives and livelihoods of Kiwis.
National suggested pre-departure testing of arrivals in August last year, and the Government finally did something about it nearly 5 months later. Testing of border workers was something we raised continually, with a review dumped rather sneakily just before Christmas last year, and still flaws continue to appear. We also recently put forward a practical 5-point plan to get out of lockdown.
Rather than blaming Kiwis for following advice they are given, trying to do the right thing, it is time the Government picked up its own game and moved far more quickly to review, adapt, and action its processes in a timelier manner.
Vaccine Rollout plan – where is it?
Unlike other countries, New Zealand still has not published a detailed list of how the population will be prioritised for vaccines and when each group will be getting them.
This is in stark contrast with Australia, which has a website where people can type in their location, age, and occupation to find out when they will be getting vaccinated.
In New Zealand, we also don’t have a daily report on the number of vaccines administered, what vaccines will arrive, and when, despite other countries doing as such. Something we think the public would welcome, as well as an actual rollout plan.
Having a full vaccine rollout plan is important because it gives Kiwis certainty, businesses the confidence they need to plan, and keeps the Government focused on delivering against its targets.
The longer the Government delays vaccinating the entire population, the longer we risk another lockdown that costs the economy $500 million a week.
You can read and share Judith Collins comments on this here, and comments by Chris Bishop on Vaccine Rollout looking messy here.
The ‘stay home, save lives’ mantra sounds simple enough, but it’s not always that easy for people who can’t afford to not be working.
National wants to make sure people can do the right thing with the least amount of economic inconvenience, so we are proposing a new payment scheme to make it easier for employees to stay home while they are self-isolating.
Treasury advised the Government that ‘economic and financial incentives’ were needed to support compliance with stay-home rules, but the Government hasn’t done anything.
Our scheme is a sensible investment. Lockdowns in Auckland alone cost the New Zealand economy $500 million per week. Avoiding them needs to be our top priority.
You can read and share more from Judith Collins and Chris Bishop on our new payment scheme proposal here.
Contact Tracing failing New Zealanders
After more than a year of dealing with Covid-19 the Government is still failing its own contact tracing performance measures and is failing to be open and transparent about locations of interest.
Information supplied to National from the Health Minister show that in both the recent Northland case and the Papatoetoe outbreak, the Ministry of Health failed against two measures of contact tracing that were considered ‘critical’ by the Government.
Dr Ayesha Verrall’s audit into the Government’s contact tracing regime last year made it clear that our system was lacklustre, and the Government promised to turn this around.
There is no excuse for not implementing Dr Ayesha Verrall’s recommendations in full given she’s sitting right there at the Cabinet table.
You can read and share more from Dr Shane Reti on contact tracing here.
Pharmac Inquiry - light and late
The Government’s long overdue inquiry into PHARMAC is light on detail and several years late, National would have liked to have seen a much more comprehensive inquiry.
A key concern from New Zealanders will be that the budget allocation to PHARMAC will be excluded from the review. So will access to products funded overseas but not in New Zealand.
There is also no indication that PHARMAC will benchmark itself against overseas best practice and there is no specific commentary around rare disorders or rapid access schemes.
If Labour hadn’t engaged in partisan politics a comprehensive inquiry could have been completed by now, with any recommendations implemented and New Zealanders’ confidence in our medicine buying company restored.
You can read and share more from Dr Shane Reti on the PHARMAC review here.
Just before the current COVID-19 lockdown took effect, and with it the media headlines, the stark reality of the governments failure to address New Zealand’s housing challenges was laid bare.
Figures released show there are now 22,521 people waiting for public housing, roughly four times as many as when National left office. On average, people will wait 177 days to be housed. These are Kiwis classified as ‘at risk’ with a ‘severe and persistent housing need that must be addressed immediately’. Roughly half of those waiting for a home are families with children.
We also found out that only half of the ‘new’ public housing places sourced by the Government are actually additional, newly built homes. New figures released show Kāinga Ora spent more than $750 million purchasing existing homes and re-labelling them as state houses, locking even more first home buyers out of the market.
In a further blow to Government rhetoric around housing, Megan Woods has continued to defend her “game changer” Progressive Home Ownership scheme that has only housed 12 families. The scheme was promised by the Prime Minister in 2017, and nearly four years later is has delivered 12 houses.
By contrast, the First Home Grant scheme started by the previous National Government has resulted in 93,000 Kiwis buying their first home.
National proposed constructive solutions to address the root causes of New Zealand’s housing emergency and unlock a surge in new house building.
We have offered to work with the Government on temporary emergency measures like those used after the Canterbury earthquake to make more space available for development. We can’t afford to wait until 2024 for the Government’s long awaited RMA reform to take effect.
You can read and share more on Nicola Willis’ comments on the Housing waitlist here, fudging of public housing numbers here, and the shambles of the Progressive Home Ownership scheme here.