The New Zealand government acted unlawfully in operating its Covid-19 border controls, a court ruled on Wednesday, saying the system deprived citizens of their right to return home.
In a 140-page written decision, Judge Jillian Mallon said the managed isolation and quarantine process failed to adequately consider and prioritize personal circumstances.
Justice Mallon found the system itself to be an essential part of the coronavirus elimination strategy.
But she said its failure to accommodate people’s specific needs meant the government had acted “unlawfully, unreasonably and in breach of the Bill of Rights which states that every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand -Zealand”.
The challenge in Wellington High Court was brought in February by the “Anchored Kiwis”an advocacy group that had lobbied for the restrictions to be eased.
He argued offshore New Zealanders had been disenfranchised and some had been traumatized by failed attempts to return home.
His challenge focused on the restrictions in place for the period from September 1 to December 17.
Demand for places in the country’s limited isolation and quarantined hotel rooms far outstripped supply during this period, meaning thousands of people missed out on places in the booking system based on the lottery.
Passport numbers were entered into “virtual lobbies”, with only a small percentage being granted a room if successful.
Examples highlighted in a judicial review include a woman who found herself stranded abroad, unable to return home to bury her only son when he died from a medical event.
Another couldn’t be there while her son was undergoing cancer treatment.
The isolation and quarantine requirement was lifted for all returning New Zealand citizens in mid-March.
Crown attorney Aedeen Boadita-Cormican defended the system in court and said it was created as fair protection for all New Zealanders at home and abroad in dire circumstances.