Kiwis locked out during pandemic urged to use their vote against Ardern

Kiwis locked out during pandemic urged to use their vote against Ardern

November 27, 2022

The New Zealand opposition is embarking on a world tour to rally the support of expat Kiwis who were locked out of their country as a result of Jacinda Ardern’s tough pandemic restrictions aimed at eliminating every single case of the virus.

Prime Minister Ardern will face voters next year and Kantar’s most recent poll, conducted in August for 1News, shows the National Party leading Labour by four points. The opposition, led by Christopher Luxon, has been out-polling the government since March.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s zero-COVID policies and quarantine system kept many expat Kiwis out of the country during the pandemic.Credit:AP

Luxon, recently interviewed in London, told this masthead that Kiwis were owed an apology for the way citizens who were overseas at the time COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China and spread across the world were locked out of the country, through the system of limited hotel quarantine spots.

Now his frontbench team are stepping up their efforts to win over those voters with a blitz of cities overseas that host large Kiwi populations, beginning with Sydney on Monday.

Three opposition frontbenchers arrived in Sydney on Sunday night for meetings with the NSW Liberal-led government as well as the heads of Infrastructure NSW and the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation as part of efforts to spur new infrastructure across the ditch, and on Monday evening they will address Kiwis living in Australia at the Liberal Party’s headquarters in Sydney.

Chris Bishop, opposition frontbencher and chair of the NZ National Party’s 2023 election campaign, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that it would be an uphill battle as voters overseas traditionally favoured parties on the left.

“Our goal for 2023 is to change that,” he said.

But he said the treatment of overseas voters during the pandemic, when Ardern turned New Zealand into a “fortress”, should cause those affected to think twice.

“I have been inundated with emails from people saying they will, under no circumstances, ever vote for Labour again because of their border policies,” he said.

“The lottery of human misery that was the MIQ [quarantine] system left Kiwis offshore disillusioned and furious at the government.

NZ Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon, of the National Party.Credit:AP

“Labour turned the country into Fortress NZ and the prime minister’s rhetoric about the ‘team of 5 million’ didn’t extend to the 1 million Kiwis living offshore, and she has never apologised for the anguish and the misery,” Bishop said.

Earlier this year, the grassroots organisation Grounded Kiwis won a High Court battle against the quarantine system.

The High Court ruled that aspects of the scheme were unlawful and in breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Labour’s campaign chair Megan Woods said the government had long acknowledged the difficult trade-offs it made to save lives and the effects of those on New Zealanders living abroad.

“Borders are fully open again and we know many families have taken the opportunity to reconnect,” she said.

“The election is a year away and all parties will choose how they wish to campaign. Labour will be focused on the future and how we can address the cost of living crisis affecting so many families, both home and abroad.”

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