Political parties are for the most part keeping their Auckland MPs away from Parliament. That’s despite an allowance made by the Speaker for them to leave Level 3 and make their way to Wellington.
National is the only party using new rules set out by Speaker Trevor Mallard to leave Auckland and travel to Wellington for the start of next week’s sitting block.
While MPs are essential workers and Mallard has never had any ability to stop them returning to Parliament, all parties had decided to keep any MPs in Level 3 away from the capital.
Northland and Waikato are also in Level 3 currently, but on Monday the Prime Minister indicated restrictions would likely lift in those regions on Thursday night.
Parliament has been operating under beefed up restrictions because National Party leader Judith Collins left locked down Auckland to make her way to Wellington during Level 4.
The Prime Minister and ACT leader David Seymour both returned to Wellington before lockdown kicked in across the country.
Even at Level 2 in Wellington, restrictions have been elevated because Collins hadn’t yet been out of Auckland for a 14-day period.
After meeting with both National and Labour last week, Mallard announced a system that would allow MPs from Level 3 areas to return to Parliament without needing to massively reduce the number of MPs in the House again.
It requires a pre-departure test within 72 hours, self-isolation in Wellington for five days and a second Covid test on the fifth day.
That means any MPs taking up the bespoke arrangement need to be back in Wellington by today to complete self-isolation and have time to receive a test result back before Parliament sits on Tuesday.
Newsroom contacted all political parties with MPs in affected Level 3 areas and only one party, National, is using Mallard’s self-isolation system.
Collins is returning to Wellington to self-isolate after heading back to Auckland at the end of the last sitting block on September 30.
Her finance spokesman Andrew Bayly is also flying down – he hasn’t been on the precinct since before nationwide lockdown.
A National Party spokesperson said all other MPs still in Level 3 will be staying put until restrictions have been reviewed again.
Labour, the Greens and ACT have also instructed its affected MPs and ministers to do the same.
Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi are both in Level 2 regions.
Mallard said the message he’d received from MPs was that they were happy with the arrangements and restrictions to date.
He received public health advice when designing the self-isolation system but wouldn’t name whom he spoke to.
The Parliament chambers will continue to operate with a capacity of 70 people including staff.
The Parliamentary Service Commission, which has a representative from each political party, will meet with Mallard next week to discuss how the precinct will operate in the future, including any vaccination requirements.
Mallard said he had received legal advice on collecting vaccination information from those who work at Parliament, but ultimately it would be for the two chief executives to decide how to treat staff.
As for the roughly 2500 people who come onto the precinct from other organisations, including those who take part in public tours, it will be for Mallard to decide how to handle their vaccination status.
“The desirability is that it is consistent for everyone working and coming onto the grounds, but it doesn’t have to be absolute,’’ he told Newsroom.