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Archive for 20 October 2021

Purpose-built MIQ: National’s sums don’t add up

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Parts of National’s document – to open up Aotearoa New Zealand “to the world” – has been recycled from various policy and media releases last year and more recently.

Despite demanding that the country open up to the outside world and end lockdowns by 1 December, and to “bring all New Zealanders home by Christmas“, National is still demanding that several hundred million dollars be committed to purpose-built MIQ facilities.

Their document, National’s plan to tackle COVID-19, end lockdowns and reopen to the world, calls for “1,000 to 1,500 permanent quarantine units and associated facilities outside of urban Auckland and close to the international airport and health and security workforce“:

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It is unclear why we would need MIQ facilities if the country “opened up” to the rest of the world. With Delta’s ferocious infectiousness, putting anyone into MIQ – irrespective of whether hotels or purpose-built – becomes a pointless exercise in futility. Delta would already be endemic throughout the country; spreading like wildfire; filling our hospitals and ICU beds; and our morgues.

By that stage, MIQ facilities become redundant. (Although Returnees might actually be safer inside a facility rather than outside, protected from an infected wider population.)

However, more to the point, National’s costing for a purpose built facility – which excludes land – is given as “estimated build cost would be circa $200 million” for “1,000 to 1,500 permanent quarantine units and associated facilities“.

It is unclear how $200 million can apply to one thousand units, or fifteen hundred units. The price must surely increase if the build increases. If not, someone is playing loose with construction costs.

It is also unclear where the figure of “$200 million” has come from.

The un-named author of National’s document quotes figures from the Victorian State Government plans for a purpose-built MIQ facility:

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National references the Victorian government’s plans with this URL: www.vic.gov.au/victorian-quarantine-hub.

Except, National’s figure of $200 million – whether for 1,000 or 1,500 units – doesn’t add up.

As this blogger first reported in July this year after National first floated it’s purpose-built MIQ facility some months earlier, it was noticeable at the time that neither Mr Bishop, nor his (current) Leader, had offered any costing for such a massive project:

To provide some broad indication, a planned purpose built quarantine facility in Victoria, Australia, is estimated to cost A$15 million [NZ16 million] to design and a further “A$200 million [NZ$214 million] to build a 500-bed facility and around A$700 million [NZ$750 million]  if it was scaled up to 3,000 beds”.

By comparison, Aotearoa has between 4,000 to 4,500 beds in hotels in Auckland (18), Hamilton (3), Rotorua (3), Wellington (2) and Christchurch (6).

Using the above figures, building a 4,000 bed facility would cost the country well over a billion dollars. With inevitable cost over-runs, the final figure would be anyone’s guess.

Chris Bishop also called for returnees to be paid a wage whilst self isolating;

“We think the government needs to be more generous when it comes to supporting people when they’re told to self-isolate. Earlier this year we announced a policy of the government paying people’s wages when people are ordered to self-isolate. It’s pretty sensible – if the government is saying to you “stay home” and we don’t want you at work – they should pay.”

National’s calls have not been costed – and nor would they be. The agenda from the Opposition is not to demand a more effective Managed Isolation and Quarantine system. Instead, their unspoken aim is,

(A) to paint the Labour government as ineffective, for pure political point-scoring

(B) to pressure the Labour government to adopt costly policies, which would push up borrowing and debt.  Caretaker Leader Collins would then wag a disapproving finger; and tut-tuttingly exclaim,

“It is irresponsible of the government continuing to spend money like it is with no thought as to where it comes from… it is ultimately the government’s decision to waste enormous amounts of money and not to actually put the focus on where it needs to be.”

Clever strategy; force your rival to spend money – then blame them for spending money.

National has now costed it’s proposed purpose-built MIQ – but the sums still do not add up.

In April this year, the Victorian government costed three options for MIQ. The first two were specifically reliant on hired, or mixed new-builds and hired, structures. Option three, purpose-built structures is closer to National’s plans.

Under heading “3.3.3 Project option 3: custombuilt structures”, page 28, the Victorian government plan calls for “entirely of purpose-built structures designed to remain permanently on the site“. Furthermore:

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Victoria’s plan calls for 3,000 accommodation units costing A$701.675 million;

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National’s plan calls for  1,000 to 1,500 units for NZ$200 million. Let’s assume the NZ$200 million is intended for the maximum build number: 1,500.

1,500 is half of Victoria’s 3,000 accommodation units.

Halve the cost of Victoria projected price tag: A$350.68 million.

Converting that sum to NZ dollars, using Westpac’s*  currency converter, A$350.68 million is roughly equivalent to NZ$359 million.

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National’s costings appear to be woefully under-stated – by a factor of one-and-a-half times.

Which is unsurprising. The party of “fiscal responsibility” has a poor track record of costing its policies with any meaningful accuracy:

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Tragically, the true cost of National’s policies will not be measured in dollars.

It will be measured in lives lost to a disease that, while tough to suppress and eradicate, should not be tolerated to rip through our communities.

We cannot afford a National government. Not in money; certainly not in lives.

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* Westpac is the government’s official bank.

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References

National: Opening Up: National’s plan to tackle COVID-19, end lockdowns and reopen to the world (p 27, 28)

TVNZ: National proposes building of purpose-built quarantine facility on Auckland’s outskirts

RNZ: National proposes reopening fully vaccinated businesses in ‘back in business’ plan

Newshub: COVID-19 – National’s ‘home by Christmas’ plan a tantalising prospect for tens of thousands stranded offshore

ABC News: Melbourne COVID-19 quarantine facility approved as Commonwealth, Victoria agree on site

Managed Isolation and Quarantine: Managed Isolation and Quarantine capacity

Stuff media: Covid-19 – Why the Government isn’t using purpose-built quarantine facilities

National Party: Ditch DHB merger, spend funding on medicines instead

Vic.gov.au: Alternative Quarantine Accommodation Hub Project Summary  April 2021 (p 27-29)

Westpac: Currency Converter

Stuff media: Election 2020 – ‘Fair cop’ – National’s Paul Goldsmith admits to accounting mistake as Labour points out $4b hole

Newshub: NZ Election 2020 – Paul Goldsmith calls ‘$4 billion gap’ in National’s fiscal plan ‘irritating mistake’

The Spinoff: The launch that fell down a four-billion-dollar fiscal hole

RNZ: Judith Collins downplays National’s fiscal error, defends Paul Goldsmith

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National’s fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake

RNZ: Explainer – How deep does National’s fiscal hole go?

Previous related blogposts

Judith Collins and National: It’s a trust thing

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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