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A New Zealand group fighting against their Government’s approach to isolation and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic has won a challenge in the country’s highest court.

Lobby group “Grounded Kiwis” this week won a High Court challenge against the New Zealand government’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system.

The judicial review focused on the period from September 1 and December 17, 2021. During which time, overseas New Zealanders required a voucher for MIQ to return home. The vouchers were obtained via an online lobby system where citizens entered their details to go in the running for a room.

In the High Court case, Paul Radich QC listed some of the worst cases of citizens who were unable to obtain an MIQ voucher.

“The lady whose son had died and she couldn’t get home. The person… who had a 14-year-old whāngai son who was undergoing cancer therapy and couldn’t get home to be with him. The person… who was separated from her two teenage daughters for a year,” Radich told the court.

In her 140-page decision, Justice Jill Mallon criticised the virtual lobby system for its failure to take into account personal circumstances, comparing it to a “lottery.” Mallon concluded that emergency allocations were too tightly set and in some cases narrowly interpreted.

“It was not an appropriate mechanism where demand significantly exceeded supply and those seeking to access that supply had a fundamental right that was potentially impacted to different degrees,” Mallon wrote.

“In some instances, in a manner that was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Mallon clarified the requirement for returning citizens to have a voucher in MIQ “did not in and of itself amount to an unjustified infringement” of a New Zealanders’ right to enter the country. She also found that the requirement to isolate was “reasonable and proportionate.” The exact orders are yet to be determined.

This win against the New Zealand government is at odds with a slew of COVID-19 related law suits in Australia that have been favourable to the government. In May 2021, The Federal Court threw out a challenge to the Australian government’s temporary ban on passengers travelling from India.

In October 2021, the NSW Supreme Court dismissed two lawsuits challenging some of the public health orders made by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Also in October 2021, Clive Palmer failed in his High Court battle against the state of Western Australia opposing their hard border.