1 December 21
In a Cabinet discussion on Tuesday 23rd November 2021, on a submission related to the Managed return of Cook Islanders stranded in New Zealand, Cabinet has advised members of BET that there was no legislative authority to charge for MIQ and accordingly no fees should be levied unless and until the appropriate legislative authority is in place. This would be done through the draft COVID-19(Duration and Regulations) Amendments Bill due to be introduced to Parliament at the current session of Parliament now underway. Since the necessary legislative changes cannot be completed prior to the repatriation flights taking place, it would be inappropriate to impose these levies, however, these will be in place for when the border reopens in January 2022.
Financial Secretary Garth Henderson stated, “In our efforts to recover some costs related to MIQ and to ensure that stranded Cook Islanders had information before applying for repatriations flights, we were remiss in not checking for legislative authority to impose fees. My sincere apologies. My staff will be organizing reimbursements for those passengers who have paid fees.”
MIQ costs include accommodation at Edgewater for 10 days, including three meals, Covid Test, laundry, transport from the airport and safe disposal of waste. The approximate cost per passenger is $2142.00. Indicative costs for both Cohorts 3 and 4 based upon applications from eligible returnees could go as high as $830,144.
The Financial Secretary stated, “although I would have preferred some cost recovery from Cook Islanders taking these last two flights before Christmas, it is clear from discussions with applicants that many of our people are under financial stress and with many of our workforce taking up jobs in New Zealand, we do need to make a stronger investment in getting our people home.”
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