The Outliers: How the smaller parties vying for Parliament would handle Covid-19

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Covid-19 is front and centre in the run up to this year’s election, with politicians battling over how best to lead the country through the crisis.

But it’s not just Labour and National presenting their plans – The Outliers striving for a place in Parliament want to make radical changes to the pandemic recovery plan, while others don’t want one at all.

RNZ politics reporter Katie Scotcher hit the road to meet The Outliers and hear about their Covid-19 recovery plans.

NZ Public Party

Billy Te Kahika’s New Zealand Public Party thinks the government’s pandemic response is worse than the coronavirus itself.

It wants to ban lockdowns, repeal the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act, and protect only vulnerable citizens.

Te Kahika and his followers believe the government is in cahoots with Bill Gates and is using the pandemic to strip people of their rights.

His conspiracy theories, which he shares in live online videos, completely contradict official, science-based advice.

“It’s going to come to light that the information that our government is working on is faulty, it’s wrong, it’s incorrect,” Te Kahika says.

“People were saying back then ‘oh you’re just crazy, you’re a conspiracy theorist’, hey presto.”

New Conservative

The government’s go hard and early elimination strategy would be eliminated itself if the New Conservatives are elected.

Party leader Leighton Baker wants the country to instead move towards minimising and containing the spread of Covid-19.

“We can’t eliminate Covid, we’ve been trying, we’ve spent tens of billions of dollars to eliminate something we can’t and now we’ve got this massive debt,” Baker says.

“Covid will continue to come back. Then what happens if it comes back a fourth or fifth time and you haven’t got the money to spend what we’ve done before.

“All we’ve done is really delay Covid going through New Zealand, so we need to be looking at minimisation.”

Māori Party

Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere wants the focus to shift from getting rid of the virus to strengthening New Zealand’s borders.

“Prior to anyone arriving here they’ve got to show that they’ve had a negative test three days prior. They have a test once they arrive … then they’ve got to self-isolate for 14 days,” Tamihere says.

“If they’ve come from a country where the outbreak is quite rabid and not in a containment mode, well then they go into quarantining.”

Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says her party would ensure Māori are involved in the pandemic response, not left behind.

“We would’ve made sure that those who led the Covid-19 responses within their regions were connected and engaging regularly with those who are making decisions, that the decision makers included representatives and advisors who had reach within these communities, not just the likes of Heather Simpson,” Ngarewa-Packer says.

“We would make sure that any recovery strategy, including economic, had a really good connect with the community so we didn’t see mistakes as we saw with huge investment in Green School.”

Vision New Zealand

Vision New Zealand doesn’t have a clear Covid-19 strategy and its immigration and border policies are murky.

But its leader Hannah Tamaki suggests she would only allow some New Zealanders living overseas to return home during lockdowns.

“During this crisis everything should’ve just been put on hold. I’m not saying never, but during this crisis, the best thing we could’ve done is look after our own first and that’s what I would’ve done,” she says.

The party also wants travellers to return a negative test before boarding their plane to New Zealand and to be tested again when they arrive in the country, before entering customs.

The Opportunities Party

A proud economist, Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons’ main focus is boosting the battered economy.

His party wants to abolish provisional tax and give cash to small businesses to help them take up digital technology, as well as invest in local government infrastructure.

Simmons is happy with how the government has handled the Covid-19 crisis, although admits there are a few things he would change.

“Having our quarantine facilities in our largest economic centre is downright reckless,” Simmons says.

“We need to be urgently looking at alternatives to site our quarantine and to allow that to scale up massively and to help pay for that, we need to be charging foreigners.”

While Covid-19 is expected to stick around for some time, there’s little chance The Outliers will get an opportunity to implement their plans, with no one polling close to the magic 5 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament.

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