21 Oct 2021

Woman desperate to help dying nephew denied Auckland entry

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 21 October 2021

A Palmerston North woman is pleading for a one-way compassionate exemption to cross the Auckland border to see her terminally ill nephew in his final days.

Thirty-six-year-old Andrew Speir is dying from bowel cancer that has spread through his body. He has just days to live.

His aunt Moyra Speir, who lives on her own and is fully vaccinated, just wants to drive to Auckland to help Andrew and his elderly parents who are caring for him in his final days including administering his pain relief.

But despite a letter from Andrew's GP that he had just days to live and pleas from her local MP along with National's Deputy Leader Dr Shane Reti, her requests have continued to be declined.

After becoming aware of the travel exemption process, she immediately applied for an exemption to travel into Auckland which was immediately declined.

She then applied again only to receive the same response.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told her they do not look into travel exemption requests that have been declined twice.

Running out of options, Speir took her situation to the Ombudsman. The office is now progressing the complaint. 

Even after enlisting the help of Local MP Tangi Utikere and National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti, her applications continued to be declined.

"You don't get an opportunity when you fill out that form to actually express the true aspect of what's going on, they ask you generic questions and you don't have a lot of space to answer.

"Also, when you're in a vulnerable position, when you've just been told the news about Andrew from the doctor it's quite difficult time to put your thoughts into answering questions which come across as rather cold."

With just elderly parents caring for her nephew, her support would include helping with everyday care and providing emotional support, Speir said.

"Apart from just being together as we journey through this time for Andrew it's for ourselves as well, obviously just to be together as a family to love each other, but at the same time just to do the vacuuming."

Speir said there are also important conversations she wished to have with her nephew that couldn't be held over the phone.

"He's in my will, I want to know what does he want me to do with that, the things that I have planned for him that probably won't come to fruition the way we planned it but what does he want to do?

"These sorts of conversations are very difficult to have over the phone especially when he can't speak for any more than a sentence or two."

She lives on her own and has been involved in Andrew's life from the very beginning, "They are my next of kin, they are the people that mean the most to me."

Speir said she wasn't looking for special treatment but she felt like there was nowhere left to go.

"Every case is different, every case is individual and I truly believe that I'm no more important than everyone else but I'm no less important either.

"There are a lot of terminal cancers in New Zealand not all at the stage where Andrew's at and they need to understand that because I'm an Auntie I'm not close enough or important enough to go is basically what they're saying."

"They don't know my relationship to Andrew and there's nowhere I can express that to them."

Speir said she's been getting tested for Covid-19 every five days to ensure she is prepared for the scenario where she can see her Nephew again.

"I've been double vaccinated for some time now and I had another test yesterday, I get tested every five days because my bags are packed I just live out of my suitcase at the moment.

"If I got the call today I'd be off at two in the morning I'm going to drive straight through."

Although her nephew is incredibly sick, he's been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as he wanted to do his bit to get the nationwide vaccination rate up, Speir said.

To be together again before Andrew dies would mean the world to her, she said.

"It makes it real for me in the sense that I'm there with him and rather than having it in my mind all the time, what's happening, how's he feeling, I could be right there with him.

"I know it's never going to be easy, it's going to be sad but you can be there and you can be a part of that incredibly hard but special time in all of our lives."

Speir said the ability to see her nephew again would provide her with the resolution and the ability to be able to carry on.

However, she's not giving up hope just yet.

"It's not over until the fat lady sings and I'm not doing any singing at the moment... I'm not giving up on Andrew and thinking it's all over rover, I'm not looking to tomorrow I'm looking to today and if there's a little bit of hope today to get me there and a little bit of hope that the life he has left can be at least decent, then why not?"