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Boat race people and MIQ

Summary:
A few months ago, I was curious about how many scarce spaces in MIQ were being taken up by people coming in for the boat race. So I made an OIA request. Now, months later, it looks like the answer is that MBIE officially has no clue how many boat race people from the boat race overseen by MBIE were put by MBIE into the MIQ facilities overseen by MBIE.Here's the trail so far. From: Eric Crampton Sent: Tuesday, 29 September 2020 12:05 PMTo: *OIA Subject: [RELEASED FROM QUARANTINE][SUSPECT SPAM]America's Cup managed isolation Dear MBIE, I’ve a short OIA request. I’d like to know how many people have sought border exceptions for accommodation in the MIQ system in relation to the America’s Cup, how many have been granted those exceptions, and how many more are expected. Many thanks! Eric

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A few months ago, I was curious about how many scarce spaces in MIQ were being taken up by people coming in for the boat race. So I made an OIA request. 

Now, months later, it looks like the answer is that MBIE officially has no clue how many boat race people from the boat race overseen by MBIE were put by MBIE into the MIQ facilities overseen by MBIE.

Here's the trail so far. 

From: Eric Crampton <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, 29 September 2020 12:05 PM
To: *OIA <[email protected]>
Subject: [RELEASED FROM QUARANTINE][SUSPECT SPAM]America's Cup managed isolation

Dear MBIE,

I’ve a short OIA request.

I’d like to know how many people have sought border exceptions for accommodation in the MIQ system in relation to the America’s Cup, how many have been granted those exceptions, and how many more are expected.

Many thanks!

Eric Crampton

It was funny because they had to pull it from their spam filter and called that process "release from quarantine"

They replied a week later asking clarification. They wanted to know whether I wanted the number of requests to not have to go through MIQ at all [exemptions from MIQ], or border exemptions to be allowed into the country despite the current border closures, and from there into MIQ. I replied, four minutes later, to clarify that I wanted to know how many came into MIQ.  

From: MIQ Ministerial Servicing <[email protected]

Sent: Tuesday, 6 October 2020 3:26 PM
To: Eric Crampton <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: America's Cup managed isolation [UNCLASSIFIED]

Good afternoon Mr Crampton

I refer to your OIA request below. I need to clarify a few points to determine how best to respond to your request.

Border exceptions is a separate process to the Managed Isolation and Quarantine accommodation system.

At current, everyone entering NZ is required to stay in managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days and return a negative COVID-19 test before they can go into the community, unless an exemption has been granted.

Exemptions to managed isolation are rare and will only be issued in very limited circumstances and where the health risk is low and can be managed.

Border exceptions relate to who are allowed to enter New Zealand currently under the border closures.

Are you after the number of people entering New Zealand for the America’s Cup who have sought exemptions to MIQ or are you after the number of people who have asked to be allowed into NZ in order to participate in the America’s Cup? 

From: Eric Crampton <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, 6 October 2020 3:30 pm
To: MIQ Ministerial Servicing <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: America's Cup managed isolation [UNCLASSIFIED]

The number who have been allowed into MIQ please! Many thanks!

Eric

On 28 October they extended their deadline to 25 November.

Yesterday, 21 December, I received MBIE's answer, such as it is: 

Dear Eric Crampton

Thank you for your email of 29 September 2020 to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) requesting, under the Official Information Act 1982 (the Act), the following information:

I’d like to know how many people have sought border exceptions for accommodation in the MIQ system in relation to the America’s Cup, how many have been granted those exceptions, and how many more are expected.

The scope of your information request was clarified with you on 22 October 2020 [Note - they later corrected this error - the correct date was 6 October] to be the number of America’s Cup participants and personnel who have gone into Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities and how many have sought and been granted exemptions to staying in MIQ.

As you will be aware, mandatory MIQ came into effect after 11.59 pm on 9 April 2020. Since then, every person entering New Zealand is required to stay in a MIQ facility for at least 14 days and return a negative COVID-19 test before they can go into the community, unless an exemption is granted.

Since mandatory isolation is required of every individual who enters New Zealand, unless an exemption is granted, detailed information regarding visa, residence, or citizenship status is not collected by MIQ officials. I am unable to answer your question as data on the individuals who have entered New Zealand for the America’s Cup has not been collected by MIQ officials. I am therefore refusing your request under section 18(f) of the Act, as the information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation or research.

MBIE regularly publishes data on MIQ occupancy, including the total number of people that have gone through MIQ. This information can be found at the following website: www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/economic-development/covid-19-data-resources/managed-isolation-and-quarantine-data/.

As you also may be aware, the process of transitioning oversight of MIQ from the All-of-Government (AoG) Response Group to MBIE began on 13 July 2020. This included the transitioning of the Exemptions function from the Ministry of Health (MoH) to MBIE. Between 13 July 2020 and 22 October 2020, the Exemptions team within MBIE received 2,439 MIQ exemptions applications.

None of these applications indicate that they were related to the America’s Cup or America’s Cup personnel.

MBIE is unable to provide you with information on how many more exemptions applications are expected with any meaningful accuracy as information is only collected once an application has been made.

In short, MBIE claims it does not know how many people in MIQ are there for boat-race purposes.

MBIE is the responsible Ministry for the whole boat-race thing. Every bit of correspondence on boat race things will go to them.

MBIE is the responsible Ministry for deciding who gets classed as an essential worker - the prelude to being allowed into MIQ as a non-citizen or non-resident.

MBIE also is responsible for allocating the scarce spaces in MIQ - deciding who among the many many claimants will win the scarce spaces.

It would be remarkable if there were not volumes of correspondence from boat-race types about when they'd be staying at MIQ, when they'd be arriving, what the arrangements would be like, whether the facilities were to their liking - basically all of the hassle that anyone who has ever had to deal with in trying to organise events has had to go through. Like - organise a conference where you're putting on the accommodation, and you'll be dealing with endless back and forth about who is staying at which times and where the taxi stand is and whether there is wifi and whether their very particular dietary needs might be handled at the hotel buffet. MBIE would have been on the receiving end of so much of that. 

But MBIE claims not to know how many boat race people it has put into MIQ. 

So I replied, ccing the Ombudsman:

I’m a bit surprised on this one.

You’ve refused my request on the basis that it would be too hard to compile the data on the number of persons granted exemptions as critical workers into MIQ for the America’s Cup.

After I made the request, around the time you extended the deadline, journalist Andrew Voerman noted that some of the figures were available in a proactive release. The MBIE Briefing note “Covid-19: Request for exemptions to border restrictions for essential workers in two 36th America’s Cup syndicate teams”, dated 9 June 2020, sought that Minister Twyford designate America’s Cup syndicate teams be considered “other essential workers” for the purpose of exceptions to border restrictions, and tallied 102 American Magic workers, 104 associated family members, 86 INEOS Team UK workers, 128 associated family members, and 1 nanny, for such consideration.

I have attached the relevant Briefing Note.

Surely it would not be difficult to tell whether that requested number of exemptions was granted, or whether the final number varied. It stemmed from a briefing note request to the Minister from your Ministry.

Ombudsman’s Office: please note that MBIE’s extension of 28 October promised a response no later than 25 November. It’s now 21 December, and they have failed even to disclose the existence of the Briefing Note listed above. I would not have known about that Note but for a helpful pointer from Andrew Voerman.

Sincerely,

Eric Crampton

MBIE replies:

As per the attached email, the scope of your original request was clarified with you on 6 October 2020.

The original wording of your request ‘I’d like to know how many people have sought border exceptions for accommodation in the MIQ system in relation to the America’s Cup, how many have been granted those exceptions, and how many more are expected’ is confusing as border exceptions and the Managed Isolation and Quarantine process are two separate processes.

As previously explained, everyone entering NZ currently is required to stay in managed isolation for at least 14 days and return a negative COVID-19 test before they can go into the community, unless an exemption has been granted.

Exemptions to managed isolation are rare and will only be issued in very limited circumstances and where the health risk is low and can be managed.

While border exceptions relate to those who are allowed to enter New Zealand currently under the border closures. America’s Cup personnel have been granted entry into New Zealand as critical workers. This decision sits with Immigration New Zealand and is unrelated to Managed Isolation and Quarantine and the MIQ exemptions process.

The briefing you are referring to is in relation to the border exceptions, not MIQ. You have clarified that you are after MIQ information so your request was responded to in that regard.

As explained in your response, MIQ cannot answer your question as to how many America’s Cup personnel have stayed in MIQ as MIQ does not collate detailed visa information. This is because everyone who has entered New Zealand is required to stay in MIQ regardless of whether they are a resident, citizen, or are entering the country as a critical worker.

Please advise if you would like to request additional information in relation to border exceptions rather than the MIQ exemptions process. 

They're here, in my view, playing jargon games. If you're not a returning Kiwi, you need an exemption to get into the country, then you need to go into MIQ. I've clearly asked how many boat-race-associated people have gone through that. They tell me it's impossible to know how many has because MIQ doesn't track it. 

I have added a request for the tally on border exceptions, which I guess would form an upper bound on how many MIQ spaces the boat race people have snaffled. It could be that some are travelling as couples, and so would only use one room. But you can't tell - if they arrive at different times, they'd have different rooms. 

Meanwhile, here's a petition encouraging MBIE to consider veterinarians as essential workers so that they might be allowed into the country to deal with some rather pressing shortages

Everything at MIQ is run on the Aristocracy of Pull. 

The Boat Race People have pull, and the government would, by all appearances, very strongly prefer that nobody might ever know how many scarce MIQ spaces have been taken up by the boat race people. 

Veterinarians, at present, do not have pull. But enough signatures and they might. Which might displace someone else whose visit might be even more pressing. It's not a great way to allocate resource the shadow value of which, at the current margin, must easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per stay.

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