Former Olympian and Team New Zealand mainsail trimmer Don Cowie. Photo / NZME
Millions of dollars for New Zealand’s shipping industry and the general economy are at risk from the country’s inadequate MIQ system, claims a former Olympics sailor.
Don Cowie, who won silver in the Star class with American-born Rod Davis at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, believes the inflexibility of the managed isolation / quarantine system is damaging New Zealand’s reputation and spending millions of dollars on boat building and the Could bring employment overseas.
The three-time Olympian pointed out that the inability to postpone his MIQ stint in November after a regatta in Spain could ruin a $ 12 million contract to build a racing boat in New Zealand.
“I have to get home right after the regatta while I could spend 3-4 days with this owner, hopefully signing him up for a boat,” said Cowie.
âThese guys don’t spend millions of dollars on yachts during a Zoom meeting.
âNew Zealand’s shipping industry is shrinking and there really are only one or two [boat building] Facilities left, but we’re trying to keep them going and it’s kind of scary. “
It wasn’t just boat building – Cowie said the group of around 20 sailors who regularly competed in a number of regattas across Europe couldn’t confirm their participation without a guaranteed return.
The 59-year-old, a longtime America’s Cup contestant, said New Zealand’s reputation was polished by the performance of Kiwi sailors and New Zealand boats in Europe.
However, if kiwis could not compete, Cowie feared it would hurt the significant investments their services brought into the country.
“If we don’t go and an American takes over the program, he won’t have the sails built in New Zealand and there is a chance the owner might want to build a new boat, he won’t push for it.” build in New Zealand. “
He even speculated that some seafarers could leave New Zealand indefinitely – separating them from friends and family and risking immigration problems – just to secure their source of income.
“It’s a tear in my eyes when you know there are people who can’t come back because they’re stuck and can’t get MIQ.”
Ordinarily, Cowie would have booked his 2022 schedule with about 10 regattas – as would much of the Kiwi crew who joined him.
But any kind of planning was nearly impossible as the government shared little specific information on how and when the MIQ might change once New Zealand hits high vaccination rates.
Cowie was no stranger to MIQ – his November stint would be his fourth.
As New Zealand panned its MIQ model to accommodate more Covid-positive people self-isolating in the community, Cowie said it was bizarre that fully vaccinated travelers – who had been rigorously tested – couldn’t do the same.
“You can turn these saliva tests over in a couple of hours, so just tell people, ‘You will sit in a cage until your negative test comes back, then you can go home.'”
Like many others who have expressed frustration with MIQ’s rigid system, Cowie said that a process based on priorities would be more appropriate.
“In my opinion, if someone comes to New Zealand on vacation … why should they be ahead of someone who wants to go home because their father is dying of cancer or business people bringing money into the country?
“Instead, you have no preference at all and it’s just not fair.”
MIQ joint boss Megan Main sympathized with Cowie’s frustrations, saying it was difficult to balance the needs of returning Kiwis while ensuring a safe MIQ process.
“These decisions are not easy to make and we understand the many different situations people may face when trying to return to New Zealand.”
The Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is preparing a self-isolation test, which will take place from October 30th to December 8th, to test alternatives to the current MIQ system.
Test takers, selected from the 603 expressions of interest received, had received preliminary approval and were now providing flight dates and a plan for self-isolation prior to final approval.
MBIE would not publicly disclose who would be involved in the process, but they reportedly represent a “cross section of industries including food technology, horticulture and forestry, manufacturing and agriculture”.