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Dr Woods rounded on the National MP after he raised questions after the Government announcement yesterday that it was studying the feasibility of Dunedin and Queenstown being used as managed isolation centres for New Zealanders returning from overseas.
Mr Walker said the South could expect up to 11,000 people to undergo managed isolated in the region should the proposal go ahead.
“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.”
Dr Woods said Mr Walker’s comments were "disgraceful and reprehensible".
"They are also misleading," she said. "He is scaremongering and is, frankly, being racist.
"The returning New Zealanders he is trying to whip up a public frenzy about are citizens and permanent residents who must stay somewhere safe to ensure that Covid-19 is not spread in the community."
Mr Walker said it was his understanding the countries he had listed were where the returning New Zealanders would be coming from, and that was made as a statement of fact, with no connotation involved.
Dr Woods stressed no decisions had been made.
"We are starting to consult with the community. Mr Walker needs to take a breath and wait for the facts, and reflect on the sentiment he is so clearly trying to ignite.”
Dr Woods intends to travel to the region next week to discuss the proposal with civic leaders and health officials.
Mr Hawkins last night on social media joined Dr Woods in calling Mr Walker's comments racist.
"Hey Hamish Walker MP for Clutha-Southland: how about you leave Dunedin out of your racist dog whistle eh?"
This morning he told RNZs Morning Report the 11,000 figure did not match what he had been told.
"I'm not sure where Mr Walker gets his sources from, one only hopes it isn't the same place where Michael Woodhouse gets his from.
"At this stage, all we have been told is that the existing locations for managed isolation and quarantine will be insufficient to meet the number of New Zealanders returning to the country. I was briefed by Minister Woods' office yesterday that they were looking at places like Dunedin and Queenstown but that they would not be making any decisions until the minister was satisfied that the infrastructure was in place ... to keep those people safe and the wider community safe."
Asked if he was concerned about Walker's comments, Hawkins said: "Well, people can draw their own conclusions as to why Mr Walker chose not to highlight New Zealanders returning from the US, or the UK or South Africa and chose India, Pakistan and Korea instead. I'm not particularly concerned about where the point of origin is for our New Zealanders returning home. That should not be relevant.
"I think they were unhelpful. It's one of better dog whistles I've heard this campaign season ... nothing in a campaign letter is done by accident."
Hawkins said conversations about the managed isolation and quarantine process could be held "without getting into an unhelpful conversation about where our citizens might be returning from".
One southern health worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said health centres had already been contacted by hospital management and asked if they could deal with up to 11,000 people in managed isolation.
"It sounds like quite a high number, but we have been told that this is happening," the health worker said.
"I don’t think we are kitted out, in terms of personal protective equipment and so on, for 11,000 people, even if it is over the next three weeks or so."
The health worker listed the same countries as Mr Walker did, as those from which the New Zealanders were returning.
Earlier yesterday Mayor Hawkins said the city was ready to play its part.
“Covid-19 is not somebody else’s fight," he said.
"These are our citizens trying to get home and we as a city need to do our bit to help."
Mr Hawkins said he had been reassured by officials that no decisions about Dunedin hosting people in managed isolation would be made until they were confident quarantines could be carried out safely.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said it was important that, having stamped out Covid-19 in the region, communities not be put at risk.
"The Queenstown Lakes district has extremely limited healthcare capacity in the event that there should be a localised outbreak beyond any quarantine facility, and this should be a significant concern," he said.
"This real concern is something that should be taken into consideration before any final decision is made and I would recommend discussions should be had with both this council and the Southern District Health Board to further inform that decision.”
Mr Walker said the region needed appropriate safeguards in place before people went through managed isolation in the South.
"With the Government’s track record, that has not been sufficient to date," he said.
“The Government needs to reassure the community there are proper safety and security protocols in place before these people arrive.”