4 Dec 2016

NZ embassy refers family of asthma victim to funeral home

3:54 pm on 4 December 2016

The daughter of a New Zealand man who died from "thunderstorm asthma" in Australia says she could have received better support from the New Zealand Embassy.

Former Wellington man Sam Lau died after a storm caused respiratory problems for thousands of people in Melbourne.

Former Wellington man Sam Lau died after a storm caused respiratory problems for thousands of people in Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

Sam Lau suffered a severe asthma attack in November and died following the storms, which caused respiratory problems for thousands of people.

His family are trying to raise money through a Givealittle page to repatriate his body back to Wellington, where he and his wife, his 10-year-old son and three-year-old daughter had been living until a year ago.

His Wellington-based daughter, Sheila, is in Australia helping her mother and siblings.

Ms Lau, 25, said the process had been incredibly hard as she had to liaise with the coroner's office because of the circumstances of her father's death, while also trying to sort out the funeral homes in both Australia and New Zealand.

"I even approached the New Zealand Embassy for help but they just referred me on to a funeral home in Australia. I've never been through this before so I don't know what the processes are, but there's just so much admin involved and liaising involved."


The asthma attacks were triggered by stormy weather around Melbourne (file photo). Photo: AFP

Ms Lau has had to contend with the act of sorting out what to do with her father's body, as well as her and her family's grief.

"It's hard because at the same time I want to be strong and I don't want my mum to have to deal with organising a funeral when she's going through so much grief. And I myself are going through grief as well, but I'm just trying to hold out until I can organise everything and then when everything settles down, I think it might hit me a bit more then."

Ms Lau was told by the embassy that it could not provide financial assistance and she said they could have provided her with more support in terms of dealing with the administrative side, but that she was unsure what the standard approach for the embassy was.

According to the government's safe travel website staff at embassies can give advice with the aim of helping New Zealanders and can also help with arrangements following a death overseas.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said it could not comment for privacy reasons.

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