An Assessment of New Zealand’s Approach to COVID-19 Border Security

Published: Spring 2021    |    By:  Nicholas Dynon  |    Volume 69, No.17



New Zealand’s government has been widely lauded for the efficacy of its ‘go hard, go early’ approach to eliminating COVID-19. In terms of the border, this approach involved the closure of New Zealand to all but returning citizens and residents, and mandatory 14-day managed isolation and quarantine. Although largely effective, an apparent breach at the border led to a second lock-down and fears of a ‘second wave’, and several ‘escapes’ from Managed Isolation Facilities (MIF) have raised concerns over border security measures. Several experts have questioned an over-reliance by Wellington on MIFs as a border security measure, the lack of mandated pre-travel COVID screening, and the absence of a proportionate risk management approach to preventing COVID infiltration while facilitating movement from low-risk areas including zero-case Pacific Island countries. This essay argues that the ‘domestication’ of the border into 32 post-arrival MIF hotels across New Zealand is at odds with Wellington’s established approach to ‘off-shoring’ border risk, and that a re-think at the border is needed.

About the Author

Based in Auckland, Nicholas Dynon is Chief Editor of security sector publications New Zealand Security Magazine and Line of Defence Magazine. He previously served 14 years with Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Canberra and Sydney, and in Shanghai (2005-2008) as Vice Consul, and Beijing (2008) and Suva (2009-2012) as First Secretary. Nicholas holds an M.A. in Asian Studies from the Australian National University and a Master of International Studies with Honours from the University of Sydney. A former commissioned officer in the Australian Army, he is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Australia. His China and New Zealand focused research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, and he sits on the editorial board of Massey University’s National Security Journal.