Getting angry at National MP Hamish Walker’s so-called ‘racist’ statement misses a bigger point: should communities be able to stop local hotels being used as quarantine facilities?
Walker was reacting to news that the government is considering using Queenstown and Dunedin hotels to quarantine new arrivals.
We’re already using Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua and of course there are only so many hotel rooms available.
The numbers of arrivals are shooting up. There were 5305 people in facilities at last count and that’s getting pretty close to the limit of 6058. Three days’ worth of arrivals and we’re out of rooms.
Walker’s objection is that his community hadn’t been consulted.
But really, what is the point in consulting over this? Because what objection would be good enough to stop a new quarantine facility?
New Zealand’s economy is being pinched by that border. We have people unable to get back to jobs, affecting the businesses they work for. We have had key workers needing to get in to get projects underway. We have people who need to get back to the homes they own or rent.
Can we really pinch the border further just because a few Nimbys in Queenstown said no?
This is not to single out Queenstown. Some in Wellington have reacted the same. News of the first Wellington quarantine facility being set up was met with similar concerns. The problem there was that the isolation hotel was close to a school and parents were worried that their children might come into contact with those in managed isolation
That, of course, would be a massive failure of the system and the fact that a child had come into contact with someone in isolation would be the least of our problems.
There, it has to be said, are some legitimate concerns to be worked through. Queenstown only has 10 emergency hospital beds. Once the snow injuries start, there will be fewer. They are worried about another Thelma and Louise or another fence jumper setting off community transmission in the town and having the hospital overrun.
It’s fair to expect the Government to ensure that any mistakes can be managed. But the fact is no community should object to quarantine facilities. Our economic recovery is going to be hard enough without Nimbys making it harder.