Southern National MP slated over 'racist' statement

Hamish Walker. Photo: NZ Herald
Hamish Walker. Photo: NZ Herald
National MP for Clutha-Southland Hamish Walker has been slammed for penning a "racist" statement singling out quarantining Kiwis returning from India, Pakistan and Korea.

The Government this afternoon said it was investigating whether hotels in Queenstown and Dunedin were feasible as managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

In response, Walker issued a press release saying it was "absolutely disgraceful" communities hadn't been consulted.

"These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.

"I've already had many calls, texts and emails from residents who do not want people in quarantine in Queenstown."

He claimed up to 11,000 people could be destined for quarantine in the south.

Minister in charge of border facilities Megan Woods said to single out India, Pakistan and Korea was racist - especially because "by and large" the highest number of returning Kiwis came from Australia.

"It's disgraceful and it's reprehensible. I think he's trying to stir up a sentiment that I don't think has any place in New Zealand."

Woods said she would travel to the south next week with head of operations, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, to visit hotels. None would be stood up until after the school holidays.

The team managing the border facilities had received calls from hotels in Queenstown asking to be considered because if selected, they get a 100 percent occupancy rate, Woods said.

Woods said if Walker was singling out countries with high Covid-19 rates, he should have also included the United Kingdom and United States.

Walker told The New Zealand Herald he had information Kiwis coming from India, Pakistan and Korea had higher infection results.

He declined to say where he got this information given the Herald has been given data showing the most imported cases had come from the UK, US, Australia and Europe.

"I'm not going to reveal my source," he said.

Walker then ended the interview and asked for questions to be emailed to him but had yet to respond by publication.

Woods said Walker's claim 11,000 people arriving in the south was "ridiculous" as only 6000 were in managed facilities. Woods said she'd like to know where he got those details from.

Walker also said "I know for a fact" there wasn't enough personal protective equipment (PPE) in Queenstown to many a quarantine and the Government needed to reassure the community there were proper safety protocols in safe.

"The other question is who is paying for these people to be quarantined here? Talking to members of the community this was the first question raised."

Woods said the Government provided PPE and she could guarantee no facility was stood up until they were certain all protocol and practices were in place.

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