Chris Lynch: No free ride during Covid-19 pandemic, travellers pay up

Chris Lynch. Photo: File
Chris Lynch. Photo: File
OPINION: I feel lucky living in New Zealand, particularly during the global pandemic, and it's a pity some travellers seem to be taking the country for a bit of a financial ride.

The Herald reported that only a third of travellers staying at quarantine hotels have paid their bills - with nearly $20 million still outstanding.

What an earth is going on - where's the money?

Arrivals and returning Kiwis are given 90 days to pay their fees after leaving managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) - and unbelievably they can leave the country again - without paying.

Why should they be given any extension at all?

If you turn up at a hotel, you hand over a credit card and if you don't pay by the end of your stay, the hotel takes out the cash you owe - simple.

It should be no different for people returning from overseas.

This relaxed approach needs to be toughed up. It's time to pull back on the "be kind" stuff and change to "pay up".

Some commentators say this is a human rights issue. Why should returning New Zealanders or travellers be forced to pay anything to visit their home country?

But we've all had our part to play. Times are tough, people in New Zealand have lost their jobs. We might be the envy of the world, but we're still feeling the impacts. We've paid the personal price of lockdowns and uncertainty.

According to the latest Government data, at the time of writing this, the number of people currently in managed isolation facilities was 5223. Let's hope they don't do a dine and dash.

What's worse is this amount has ballooned in recent months.

RNZ reported in December a third of those invoiced for their stays in managed isolation had not paid - more than three months later. The total debt then was $43,625, a stark contrast to $20 million.

Speaking to the media, the Prime Minister said she hoped the "majority will pay what they are required to pay". Living on hope sometimes just isn't enough.

Ardern said the Government can try and collect money from people who've failed to pay upon their return to New Zealand.

"Collection is important to us because this is taxpayer money. We urge them to do the right thing and pay."

This would be the perfect time for the Prime Minister to add a harder tone in her Covid-19 briefings.

New Zealanders would support her on this. No one likes seeing taxpayers being taken for a ride, particularly as we all grapple with the economic fallout from Covid-19.










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