NZ should open borders to countries with Covid - Muller

National Party leader Todd Muller. Photo: Getty Images
National Party leader Todd Muller. Photo: Getty Images
National leader Todd Muller says waiting for a vaccine or for other countries to eliminate Covid-19 before the border reopens would leave New Zealand "on its knees".

Speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Monday Muller called for the Government to describe its thinking about the conditions under which it would look to relax border restrictions..

"The New Zealand strategy cannot be that we stay locked up until everybody else gets to zero or we have a vaccine. This country would be on its knees if that was the case."

Earlier in his brief leadership, Muller said the National Party believed Australian skiers should be able to come to New Zealand this winter.

But Muller said the "shambolic" response to testing people in quarantine of the past fortnight meant New Zealanders were now less willing to talk about how we might allow people to visit or travel internationally.

"It has reduced New Zealand's confidence in having a conversation, because even having a conversation right now creates the sense that 'oh, you mean we're going to open the border and get overwhelmed'.

"But you've got to start framing up what short to medium to long term country strategy is," Muller said.

"There has to be a greater standard in market, in terms of health checks, and confirmation of being free of Covid, than what's been the case, and you should be able to work with Australia and others to land what that looks like.

"Just because it is present in a country shouldn't mean that nobody from that country has the capacity to visit this country.

"We've got to be able to imagine a different engagement with the world than that."

Muller said it had to be possible to be able to have confirmation of people's health before they got on a plane and their health status when they got here, to the satisfaction of health and border officials in both countries.

"Then you should be able to have a conversation about what that means. Does that mean when they arrive two more weeks? Or is it a lesser time?"

Asked if he would be comfortable for visitors from any country, Muller said his point was that it was "simply untenable" to not be developing a plan on how to reintegrate with the rest of the world and the Government needed to communicate.

"We've got no visibility in terms of how they would manage the Australian situation, no visibility around the Pacific, despite the fact that most of those countries are without Covid.

"They can't manage the current border situation at all. The last two weeks has been shambolic and I am making it very clear that a shambolic internal border and a strategy that we stay completely closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is untenable.

"This Government needs to be clear with New Zealand about what that criteria would look like."


Toad-in-the-hole just does not get it. How many lives would he sacrifice for a few dollars more? Think where we would be if he had been PM over the past 6 months. Yep, just a smaller version of his wonderful USA. That would scale to over 1200 death. Make NZ dead again - no thanks.

He says "The New Zealand strategy cannot be that we stay locked up until everybody else gets to zero or we have a vaccine. This country would be on its knees if that was the case."
What world is he living in? We are not "locked up." Victoria is locked up. We are in the pleasant position of NOT needing to shut down restaurants and schools and universities, not having to halve the number of work stations in the factory to keep the workers separated. Meanwhile -- while most of the rest of the world is locked up -- our logs are still rolling, the fish is getting frozen, the milk is being freeze-dried, and all those workers are putting out full productivity without restrictions. Their children can go to child care centres that do not have to be shut down. Imports and exports are still flowing. And because we have that security, banks are lending money, investors are investing, things are getting built. Try to book an electrician today, and you will find the economy is humming. An economy is all about confidence: the talk of "open up" is a torpedo aimed at business confidence and consumer confidence. It's dangerous talk, to no purpose.

Yes, we lost 50% of our tourism sector and a significant part of tertiary education students, but part of those gaps will be filled by NZ residents staying here to study and holiday. This is an economic hit we can live with until there is a vaccine or a good treatment -- but opening up to countries with the virus is not something we can live with, economically or in terms of the human cost.
Same-day international travel is not a necessity of life. Quarantine is an acceptable inconvenience for people needing to join their families, and for project workers (avatar, Wellington sewer fixers) and others who will be here for a few months. It would be acceptable for international students, if we had the quarantine capacity to give them (paid) places. Business people will zoom or get an overseas agent. Jetsetters will have to re-imagine life. We can live with this. The New Zealand strategy *can* be -- must be -- that we are protected by quarantine until everybody else gets to zero or we have a vaccine. The alternative is just dumb.