“By mid-2021, it was looking like MIQ was a political tool rather than a health measure. I was also increasingly concerned for the safety of the women in MIQ”
Tudor Clee Barrister
Criminal and human rights barrister Tudor Clee’s dedication to justice drove his advocacy for pregnant women prevented from entering New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His efforts are credited with hastening the end of the government’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system, as he worked pro bono to get them home. The founder of the once largest criminal practice in New Zealand by caseload shone a spotlight on the politicised nature of women’s rights and the need for appropriate consideration.
Named to NZ Lawyer’s 2023 list of Most Influential Lawyers, Clee’s compassion and empathy for the women’s plight fuelled a six-month public battle, resulting in more than a dozen families returning to, or being reunited in, New Zealand to give birth in safety.
A friend of Clee’s from their university days, Roshni Sami, was pregnant in New Zealand with her husband stranded in the US. Asking him for help, she became his first case as he strived to secure her husband a spot in MIQ in September 2021. Even though he was on parental leave with a newborn of his own, Clee felt compelled to help so she wouldn’t have to give birth alone.
While Clee requested a judicial review of the government’s rejection of Sami’s application for a MIQ voucher, she launched a support group for other pregnant families facing the obstacles created by the government. Sami gathered support from medical colleges and maternal health experts to publicly call for an urgent change in MIQ policy to ensure the safety of pregnant women. Sami referred affected families to Clee, who filed a further seven judicial reviews.
1B/68 Greys Ave, Auckland 1010
Tudor Clee Barrister
“I received numerous unsolicited messages from women in MIQ being threatened or harassed by staff and too scared to speak up”
Tudor Clee Barrister
Duty Lawyer at Manukau District Court
2008–2011: Founder of the largest criminal law practice in New Zealand by caseload
2011: Created Touchable Earth, a UN award-winning education program used by 100,000 children in 180 countries
Travelled to every country in the world (all 193 UN members)
LawFuel’s Lawyer of the Year
Barrister in Auckland since 2018
Assistant Vice President and Senior Broker at MJ Hall & Company since 2018
Suncorp Bank introduces Solar Home Bonus offer for customers who are choosing renewable energy for their homes
Month-on-month market share growth commences
Suncorp Bank wins the Canstar award for most outstanding value in investment loans
Suncorp Bank wins Money Magazine’s Bank of the Year and Business Bank of the Year awards for the fifth year in a row
Suncorp Bank’s turnaround times are the lowest they have ever been. The lender becomes Australia’s first certified carbon neutral bank for both its operation and transaction services
In late 2021, Clee realised the New Zealand border wasn’t “closed”, but that the government had misled the public into believing it was. A citizen with a ticket transiting New Zealand could simply opt to enter the country instead and be given an MIQ voucher on the spot, rather than having to participate in the government-imposed “lottery”. Clee published an article explaining the legality of the process and desperate citizens started using it to return home.
After Clee’s method gained attention in the mainstream media, the government attempted to close the loophole. Internal documents show the government considered charging New Zealand citizens entering their own country this way with an imprisonable offence. Eventually, the government decided on a fine of $1,000 to act as a deterrent. Clee, again acting pro bono, challenged this in court and had the fines quashed.
“By mid-2021, it was looking like MIQ was a political tool rather than a health measure. I was also increasingly concerned for the safety of the women in MIQ,” says Clee. “There was no independent oversight of the New Zealand Defence Force, who oversaw the facilities. I received numerous unsolicited messages from women in MIQ being threatened or harassed by staff and too scared to speak up.”
Clee’s innovative approach to advancing his clients’ rights attracted media attention, especially his advocacy for pregnant journalist Charlotte Bellis, whose MIQ application to return home from working in Afghanistan was rejected.
“The relative hospitality of the Taliban offering refuge, while New Zealand banned (Bellis) returning, brought global humiliation and condemnation to the government,” says Clee. “MIQ was dead within weeks, as there was no political capital left to sustain it.”
The Bellis case was widely covered in New Zealand and abroad. Clee appeared on BBC live in primetime, Sky News Australia, ABC730, and every major media outlet in New Zealand. He challenged the government to explain why pregnant citizens were banned from returning home while 64 foreign DJs were given priority access to MIQ vouchers.
The government was forced to capitulate and grant Bellis a voucher. Less than a month later, MIQ was abolished.
While Clee considers fast-tracking the end of the MIQ system his defining achievement, the battle remains to reinstate the citizenship rights of children forced to be born overseas.
The influential barrister regards every problem as solvable, an approach shaped partly by his travels to all 193 United Nations member countries. His passion for education prompted Clee to found Touchable Earth, a digital world book program used by over 100,000 young learners in 180 countries.
What are his plans for the future?
On a business level, “more of the same. I will continue to empower and encourage my staff to perform at their best as I have done for the last decade. I will continue to advocate for my clients, embracing new technology and being open to business and industry changes.”
On a personal level, Dixon invests significant time, effort and funds, along with his GT3, to support many charities through his passion for motorsport. From participating in and sponsoring the Thunderbolt Run (which provides tens of thousands of dollars in support for Beyond Blue and Prostate Cancer), to organising and running the Track Knights for Amira charity night where 28 Exotic Supercars raised funds through passenger laps in wet conditions, Dixon states “this is our time to give back to the community and those in need. My friendships and association with those seeking to do the same, allows us to contribute to those less fortunate and raise funds and awareness”.
He adds: “To be able to give back to the community is rewarding and fulfilling. I am honoured to be in a position where I can raise funds for those less fortunate and in need.”