Green MP RicardoMenéndez March, who is currently in managed isolation after travelling to Mexico, says he went there to be with his step-mother who had breast cancer.
The list MP – who grew up in Tijuana – returned to New Zealand on February 1 and is in managed isolation after seven weeks abroad.
That is despite the official advice on the Government’s SafeTravel website which urges all New Zealanders to remain in the country.
Speaking out tonight following questions about why he went March said he wanted to thank everyone for their patience whilst he formed a fulsome response to queries about the “emergency trip” home.
“I would also like to thank New Zealanders who have taken in good faith my need to leave during such a tumultuous time.”
“Leaving New Zealand and returning to my homeland of Tijuana Mexico was not an easy decision and many have understood the severity of my personal circumstances, and shown compassion and empathy.”
March said he had booked an urgent flight to go and care for his father and step-mother last year before becoming an MP.
His father has ill health.
“My step-mum has had breast cancer diagnosis that she has been battling for several years, she recently had an aggressive relapse and has been given between six to twelve months to live. For several years since my biological mum’s passing, she has been a core part of my nuclear family. During the pandemic my dad had undergone major surgery (with long lasting effects), and the person who had cared for them had become extremely ill herself and was unable to care for them.”
He said the the pandemic had taken an incredible toll on their health but he delayed the trip to go and care for them after being elected in October. His long-term partner who is based in Mexico took up the role of caring for them instead.
“With the summer break approaching, I sought advice from both party Co-leader Marama Davidson and our Musterer (whip) Jan Logie on returning to my homeland to care for my parents. I received their blessing and booked a flight for Dec 13th.”
March said he and his partner had been trying to secure a visa for him to live and work in New Zealand since last June. He was granted a six-month New Zealand Visitor Visa on January 11, roughly the same time as March planned to return here.
“My process to return to New Zealand was, as expected, difficult. I applied for the Emergency Allocation through the relevant department (MBIE). Whilst applying, MBIE asked for proof of my need to return to work.”
“My Musterer Jan Logie provided a short letter to them that it was important I return to work for Parliamentary duties. The head of MBIE also called my Co-leader James Shaw to ask if it was important I be prioritised. During this phone conversation, James rightfully made it clear that I should not receive special treatment and should be assessed normally alongside everyone else.”
March said he accepted he didn’t meet the criteria to return on an Emergency Allocation so kept checking the MIQ website and applying for voucher for a spot in MIQ.
“I managed to secure a spot on Feb 1, and both my partner and I were able to return to New Zealand and safely quarantine. We are now coming to the end of our time in quarantine, but as a precautionary measure, we will self isolate at home in Auckland for an additional five days before I return to Parliament.”
He praised the staff at the MIQ hotel he was staying at in Christchurch.
He also acknowledged his “immense privilege”.
“I understand that many New Zealanders do not have the resources or the available leave from work to go and visit their very sick and dying parents. I understand the collective loss in that and I acknowledge that the difficult decision I made to return to Tijuana was also one grounded in good fortune.”
March said the past six weeks had taken a significant toll on him but he is focusing on his family – but also getting “stuck back into work” once he returns to Parliament the week after next.
The Government-run MIQ system has come under increasing strain in recent months with New Zealanders abroad struggling to secure spots in order to return home.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he had steered clear of the case when contacted by MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain when March applied for an emergency spot in MIQ.
“I indicated that I was not going to get involved in that decision-making process in any way.”
Tremain also contacted party co-leader James Shaw.
“What I said was: under no circumstances should he get special treatment,” Shaw said.
National Party leader Judith Collins said earlier today she would not have allowed any of her caucus to travel overseas at the moment. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would expert her Labour MPS to adhere to the same requirements which apply to all New Zealanders.
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