New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has today invoked the Coalition Agreement’s ‘Agree to Disagree’ provisions in light of Cabinet’s decision to maintain Alert Level 2 settings outside Auckland.
“The Director General of Health has stated that the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland is contained. Additionally, he believes there is a low risk of transmission outside of Auckland,” said Mr Peters.
“These assessments are underpinned by a secure border, good levels of community testing and responsive contact tracing processes.
“New Zealand First notes that it will be around 120 days since the last community transmission or reported case – with the sole exception of the four Tokoroa cases, all linked to the Auckland cluster – outside of the Auckland region.”
“Despite modelling suggesting a small risk of undetected cases outside Auckland, no evidence has yet emerged that this risk has been realised,” said Mr Peters.
“With the opportunity cost, in terms of lost output to the economy, running in excess of $200 million for every week the rest of the country remains at Alert Level 2, as opposed to Alert Level 1, the economic risks are rising sharply and in inverse relationship to the Director General’s stated health risk assessment that the outbreak in Auckland is contained.
“Travelling around the South Island has reinforced that people are not observing social distancing in the absence of any registered or real threat of Covid-19 exposure since late April. Not because they are against the Government’s Covid-19 response, but because they have applied their own ‘common sense’ test to their risk of exposure to the virus,” said Mr Peters.
“Businesses outside Auckland affected by Alert Level 2 restrictions are looking to the government to fairly apply its own agreed upon criteria to match the health situation they face.
“People are also asking me how it is fair for the election campaign to be conducted under the Alert Level restrictions and some feel, as we do, that there is not an even playing field for respective campaigns under these conditions.
“As stated by the Director General, ‘this outbreak continues to best fit the description of Alert Level 2 in Auckland (with limited community transmission occurring), and Alert Level 1 elsewhere (with a low risk of cases spreading from Auckland, and no evidence yet that spread has in fact happened).’
“As a government, we have to weigh relative risk across a number of factors. The elimination of all health risk skews that analysis in favour of theories of transmission that are so far not supported by any actual evidence of transmission outside Auckland, while the economic burden for current and future taxpayers continues to mount.
“For these reasons while New Zealand First supports the continuation of Alert Level 2 in Auckland it cannot support a continuation of Alert Level 2 outside of Auckland until Monday 21 September at midnight, so has invoked the ‘Agree to Disagree’ provisions of the Coalition Agreement in relation to this specific part of the Cabinet decision,” said Mr Peters.