Although Mandate and passports have been lifted and border restrictions have softened, this is of little assistance for New Zealanders who are unvaccinated wanting to return home.
Imagine not knowing when you can ever return to your own country, simply because of a medical choice.
‘The Forgotten of NZ’ is a group of around 300 NZ permanent residents stranded overseas. They cannot return because they are not vaccinated, despite being residents and/or citizens. The couples below were simply on a short trip to visit family, when the government changed its rules whilst they were away.
‘The Forgotten of NZ’ have engaged Frontline Law’s Matthew Hague who recently won the Yardley Judicial review case for defence force and police and he is exploring thee legal options for the group.
Most have homes, jobs, and families in NZ. Many have lived here their entire lives, many cannot get NZ citizenship as their home countries don’t allow dual citizenship.
See two sample stories below, one being Caleb, a police officer from Thames with his young family and pregnant wife who were on a trip to visit family in Germany. The other is Holly’s Story of being on a short trip to visit her parents in South Africa, before starting a new job in Auckland. Holly & her husband own a home they can’t return too.
Caleb, Wife & Young family in Germany trying to get home
On the 20th of March 2022, I flew to Germany with my pregnant wife and 1.5 year old son to visit my wife’s family for approximately 5 weeks. We had an MIQ voucher and are due to return to New Zealand on the 29th of April. As we were driving to the airport on the 20th, we were made aware of the changes to the MIQ system for non-vaccinated NZ citizens (as published 18th March, 11.59pm). I called the MIQ hotline and asked if these changes would have any consequences on our return to NZ, also explaining our residency/citizenship as well as vaccination status. I am an Australian citizen, although I have lived in NZ my whole life. My mother is a NZ citizen. My wife is German, a permanent resident in New Zealand, having resided in NZ permanently for the last five years.
We were informed by the MIQ call taker that the changes bore no consequence for us, that we would be able to return to NZ and that we would (still) have to stay in MIQ for seven days on our return. This was as expected and we flew out that day.
On the 25th of March, my wife received an email stating that our MIQ voucher had been cancelled. She responded to the email and also emailed the MIQ contact address, again outlining our situation, including residency/citizenship and vaccination status. The first response stated that we could enter the country without an MIQ stay, the second response stated that because we’re unvaccinated we would have to go to MIQ and would need to reapply for a voucher.
Consequently, and based on the first response received, we attempted to fill out the new online travel pass form, however, we weren’t able to complete it as we do not fit any of the criteria provided on the form. My wife emailed the person at MIQ who advised us that we would be able to enter the country without going through MIQ, in order to get further assistance. She received a response from the same person, now stating that we would not be able to enter the country under the current rules (unless fully vaccinated).
After receiving this information we called the MIQ hotline and spoke to the call taker who apologised for the ‘miscommunication’ that had been provided to us, but other than an apology stated they were unable to help us.
We were advised to contact COVID19 helpline and escalations@MIQ.govt.nz, however, we have yet to receive any assistance from either of these organisations (we were only provided with excerpts from the current rules).
We have been left stranded with no way of returning home. We are under pressure as my wife and I must return to work and she is due to give birth in August.
According to the new rules we need to be fully vaccinated before we can enter NZ, ironically, even if we wanted to get vaccinated we still would not be “fully vaccinated” by the time we were due to fly back to NZ on the 29th of April.
If we had known (or correctly been advised) that under the rules of 18th March we would not be able to return to our home/life in NZ, we would have never left NZ. The miscommunication/incorrect advice given by the official MIQ staff, and disorganisation of the MIQ system and the COVID19 management as a whole has been very disappointing and has, as evident, put us in a very stressful, potentially expensive and somewhat hopeless situation.
We are more than happy to go to MIQ on our return to NZ, we just need someone to assist us in this endeavour.
I have been in the Police since June 2019. I am still a Constable in the Police. I was stood down because I was not vaccinated. However, I am due to return to work once I return to NZ, thanks to the success of the Yardley judicial review. I am stationed in Thames assigned to the Public Safety Team.
I am incredibly disappointed in the government and its handling of everything COVID related. As a nation, we have been in the unique position of having watched other countries experience COVID first. We had the ability to adapt and adjust strategy, when it came to our turn, yet we have just followed the playbook of all other western countries, failures and all. I wish I could say I was surprised by what has happened to us, but really it’s par for the course for this government who have continually failed the people of NZ. We are just the most recent victims of an inhumane, unjust, discriminatory bureaucracy.
The decision to prevent us from returning to NZ has nothing to do with health, it is solely based on discrimination, discrimination against people who want to make their own decisions regarding their health.
I acknowledge that we are extremely lucky to have been able to travel overseas. This was my wife’s first holiday in three years and was supposed to be a relaxing and stress free time before she returned to work in NZ and then gave birth in August. Since learning we would not be able to return to NZ, it has been incredibly stressful. My wife worries about not having me around for the birth/after the birth (given I can only stay in Germany for a certain time period due to my visitor visa [special rule allowing partners/family members of GE citizens to enter GE irrespective of vaccination status – wouldn’t it be great if the same was true for NZ…), about the potential financial burden (i.e. costs of lawyers, changing flights but more importantly, we are unsure whether midwifery care/medical/hospital bills would be covered by the German health system, given my wife is employed in NZ and therefore may not be eligible for free health care), and about her having to work remotely from Germany (luckily her work has been very supportive and she will be able to continue work even if she had to stay in Germany, though this may create some international tax issues for the company which are yet to be considered), looking after our son and managing to get enough rest/sleep to ensure our unborn gets what it needs. We worry for the baby and the impacts of the stress on it more than anything.
We have yet to have had covid (as far as we are aware).
Holly & Husband Fergus trying to get home
Holly was granted an MIQ voucher based on her Permanent resident and vaccination status prior to departure from New Zealand. As an unvaccinated permanent resident she knew at the time of departure she would need to return, via MIQ had her voucher approved, according to government regulations at the time. However, during her trip overseas, her MIQ voucher has been cancelled and she is told she cannot enter NZ as an unvaccinated permanent resident. Her husband, also unvaccinated, is a NZ citizen. They own a home in Auckland that they are not able to access due to the changing restrictions. Holly is due to start a new job in Auckland on 4th April and booked the trip to see family in South Africa around her agreed start date taking into account the required MIQ stay. She is now at risk of losing her job and her home. She is forgotten, yet her world has been turned upside down.
Reporting by The News Alliance