Couple who flew South deemed low risk

The son of a high-ranking official and his partner, who allegedly breached lockdown by fleeing Auckland for Wanaka, have been deemed a low health risk following an assessment by the Ministry of Health.

The 35-year-old man and his 26-year-old partner have been labelled "unbelievably selfish" by Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult but he was quick to reassure the district’s residents.

The Ministry of Health yesterday said a "health assessment" had been carried out on the couple and they had been deemed a low risk, although it would not confirm whether that included a Covid-19 test.

Further details of the couple’s movements were revealed by police who said they used a travel exemption as essential workers to go from Auckland to Hamilton on Thursday last week.


Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult. Photo: supplied
Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult. Photo: supplied

Police allege the pair then flew to Queenstown via Wellington before renting a vehicle and driving to Wanaka.

They were spoken to by officers on Saturday afternoon and agreed to return home.

Police said they were now considering charges under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

If found guilty of breaching the health order, the couple could be fined or imprisoned.

Those involved have remained tight-lipped.

The public official whose son was implicated in the incident hung up on the Otago Daily Times when contacted, as did the employer of the woman accused of the breach.

Auckland-based lawyer Rachael Reed QC confirmed she was acting for both parties and said she would seek name suppression for her clients if and when they appeared in court.

The ODT visited the holiday home in question yesterday afternoon and a person inside responded, asking that the reporter leave the property.

A neighbour said he was stunned to discover the home was behind his.

Mr Boult was scathing.

"It’s astounding that this couple has felt they had the right to put each and every one in our district’s communities at risk during a global pandemic so they could partake in skiing," he said.

"It’s simply not acceptable that a handful of people continue to flout the restrictions and think they do not apply to them. I ask those few to think of the risk they are placing on others and the risk they place on New Zealand being able to return to some sort of normality soon."

He knew many in the district, particularly around Wanaka, would be concerned at the risk the couple might have introduced.

"Although I am not at liberty to go into detail, after discussion with central government health officials, I am able to say that I have no ongoing concerns for the health of folk in our district."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared to reference the case yesterday when she spoke about the risk of Covid-19 escaping Auckland, a key reason everywhere outside Auckland was staying in Level 2 until at least next Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, we have seen in recent days an example, despite the checks we have in place, people using some of the reasons for movement to get through," Ms Ardern said.

"The rules are not there to be gamed."

- Staff reporters 

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