PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Judith Collins clashed in Parliament on Tuesday, over the question of why Invercargill is at Alert Level 2.
During question time, as usual, Ms Collins asked Ms Ardern a range of Covid-19-related questions.
Things got feisty when she asked if there was a plan to keep the Delta outbreak in Auckland away from Invercargill, which did not involve the South Island being at Alert Level 2.
Ms Ardern replied yes, “and hopefully it involves that member being regularly tested”.
Ms Collins lives in Auckland but has been out of the city for several weeks so she can attend Parliament; while Parliament was in recess she visited several southern cities, including Dunedin and Queenstown.
Ms Ardern had to defend her comment, calling out to barracking National MPs that she was not being nasty.
Ms Collins asked if the prime minister thought South Islanders would think she was being funny, “when they are stuck at Alert Level 2 and they haven’t seen Covid-19 for almost a year”.
The prime minister replied her comment was a reference to the need for Aucklanders who might have essential worker exemptions to be regularly tested.
“They may have the ability to move about to other parts of the country, and to reduce the risks to other parts of the country, they have a seven-day testing cycle.
“If we do have the emergence of a case, rather than having to put that area, be it Invercargill or anywhere else, into a higher alert level, we give ourselves a better chance to be able to contact trace without heightened restrictions.”
Ms Collins said Ms Ardern’s comment was flippant and suggested she was under pressure.
“I’m sure there are plenty of South Islanders writing in and telling her what they think about still being at Alert Level 2.
“A lot of people are certainly contacting me about it and I am going to keep on standing up for South Islanders.”
All eight South Island National MPs signed a letter to Ms Ardern last week, calling for the island to revert to Alert Level 1 immediately.
Ms Ardern said she thought most people understood why the Government was keeping the South Island at Alert Level 2.
“If you ask, ‘Would you rather be in level 2 and be cautious, or run the risk of a case and going into a lockdown?’, I suspect many would opt for that cautious approach.”