By Claire Edmondson, General Manager, Infrastructure New Zealand

The ongoing community outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant and the pressure it has placed on an already stretched managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) network has again raised the subject of specialist MIQ facilities.

At the same time, there have been many reports of businesses unable to secure skilled employees – often specialists in their fields – from overseas with skills that cannot readily be sourced in New Zealand. The three primary reasons cited are:

  • suspension of the processing of most work visa applications
  • closed border
  • inability to secure spots in an MIQ facility.

Businesses have also reported issues caused by the inability to travel overseas to install and commission equipment manufactured in New Zealand because of the difficulty securing spots in MIQ enabling staff to return in a known timeframe.

Infrastructure New Zealand is exploring the merits of New Zealand having a dedicated MIQ facility for skilled employees who hold work visas. We are initially looking to focus on the construction sector, given its close relationship with infrastructure projects and the delays some major projects have experienced due to difficulties securing specialists from offshore.

There have already been musings on the need for dedicated MIQ facilities, but sector engagement has yet to be undertaken. A Government-private sector partnership approach could potentially be the game-changer required to make a purpose-built MIQ facility feasible. Sure, New Zealand will not be able to build a hospital-like facility in a week like China does, but the involvement of industry expertise would mean a commercial focus on delivery instead of endless briefings and updates to bureaucrats.

We will survey members in early October to gauge initial thoughts. That feedback will inform our advocacy efforts to the Government, particularly whether a purpose-built MIQ facility for work visa holders is needed, where it should be located, who should fund it, and what it might be used for in a post Covid-19 environment. We will expand on those discussions at Building Nations 2021 in November.