Simon Bridges lashes out at Government's alert level 2 funeral restrictions

coronavirus 13/05/2020

The National Party is lashing out at the Government's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people for funerals and tangi.

There is confusion and anger as hospitality and cinemas are allowed maximum groups of 100. Funeral directors and grieving families on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to alter the rules.

National leader Simon Bridges said the rules for funerals were outrageous.

"It's not kind - it's inhumane in fact," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

National voted against the first and second reading of the Government's alert level 2 enforcement Bill on Tuesday. The Bill would grant the Government powers to enforce the rules of COVID-19 alert level 2.

"If you look at this law, at a time when we should be easing up a level, the law is going to give the Minister of Health and the police more powers - to search your car, to go into your home - than they had at level 4," Bridges said.

"Keeping families away from their deceased mother or father or sister or partner - that is cruel."

The Bill passed its first and second readings on Tuesday with support from the coalition Government parties as well as the ACT Party.

Places of worship are also impacted by alert level 2 restrictions - limited to 10 people. Bridges told The AM Show on Wednesday some people's most important part of life was worshipping in their church or mosque. 

"That is also cruel when we're saying - '30 people can be on a rugby field [with] no worries with others on the sidelines'.

"We can do these things and that is why along with the loss of freedoms and the huge powers going to [Health Minister] David Clark and the Police Commissioner - I don't think we'll be able to support this Bill," said Bridges, who has support from the likes of senior MP Judith Collins.

What New Zealand needs isn't "perfect" but "some pragmatic rules that get New Zealand working again", Bridges said.

Asked by host Duncan Garner if he thought Ardern had done a good job during the pandemic, Bridges said, "I think on the health side, excellent - I think no-one can deny.

"New Zealanders have done the hard mahi as well - we've been there, we've sacrificed, socially distanced [and] self-isolated."

Ardern on Tuesday called the issue of funerals the most difficult area when it came to restricting numbers.

"We know this is causing pain but we equally have tried to be really consistent," she told reporters.

Ardern said the rules were in place because the urge to physically comfort others at funerals is too risky.

"The idea that we would force people to not be able to support one another, to comfort one another, is equally a very hard thing to comprehend.

"This is only intended, we hope, to be a very short period."