Labour’s plan for managing our borders

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, robust border controls are essential to protect New Zealanders and keep our economy moving. Labour will continue to carefully manage our borders to keep New Zealanders safe, while ensuring businesses can access the skilled workers they need for our recovery.

The strict border controls New Zealand has in place for people’s entry, isolation, quarantine and testing have been critical in limiting the virus’ spread. Our policies have seen New Zealand keep COVID-19 contained at levels that only a few countries have managed to achieve, allowing us to get our economy moving faster.

We went hard and early with our border controls, putting in place one of the strictest managed isolation and quarantine systems in the world. Around 50,000 people have now passed through these facilities, and we’ve progressively scaled up capacity so that up to 14,000 people a month can safely return. We’ve also increased our lab testing capacity, so that we can now conduct up to 25,000 tests a day, ensuring any cases are caught in managed isolation before they have a chance to spread into the community.

Our careful management of the border has meant that, over time, we’ve been able to adjust our settings to ensure more businesses have access to the critical workers they need to operate, and that partners and children of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents can also enter. From early October, partners and dependent children of some temporary work visa holders will also be able to apply for a border exception.

However, as we move forward with our economic recovery, we know that more businesses will need overseas workers with unique or specialist expertise that they cannot find in New Zealand. That’s why Labour has committed to setting aside 10% of managed isolation and quarantine places for critical workers, and will work with businesses and sector leaders to broaden the range of workers who can gain entry to New Zealand. We’ve also announced that we will use our strong global position to encourage targeted and high-value international investment into New Zealand, through a new Investment Attraction Strategy.

Together, these changes will provide certainty for businesses and support our economic recovery, while ensuring our system can safely accommodate all New Zealanders returning home from overseas. We’re doing this so that we don’t hold back economic opportunities in our recovery, while continuing to do all we can to keep New Zealanders safe.

We also plan to establish a quarantine-free travel zone with Australia, as soon as it is safe to do so. However, keeping people safe is our number one priority. We will only re-open the border completely when it is safe to do, and strict controls will continue to be necessary until we have effective treatment, a vaccine, rapid reliable testing, or a change in the spread of the virus.

Our careful management of the border has played a key role in our strong health response, and has given us a headstart on our economic recovery. We can’t afford to lose all that we’ve gained. Labour’s measured border policies will continue to prioritise the health of New Zealanders, while ensuring we can safely keep our economy moving.