27 Sep 2020

German yachties had 'blatant disregard' for New Zealand law - Immigration NZ

4:57 pm on 27 September 2020

Immigration New Zealand says three German yachties treated New Zealand's Covid 19 laws with contempt and have to face the consequences of their actions.

Opua, in the Bay of Islands.

Opua, in the Bay of Islands. Photo: 123RF

The two men and a women sailed from a Polynesian country to Opua in Northland, despite having their application for a border exemption declined.

Immigration New Zealand's border and visa operations manager Peter Elms says there were repercussions for disregarding the laws.

He said this included "being detained in custody, being removed from New Zealand, losing their ability to return to New Zealand as a visa-free national and potentially risking increased difficulties travelling to other countries internationally after they've been removed."

Elms said the crew requested a border exemption from the Ministry of Health, which was refused.

"New Zealand's border restrictions are in place for a very good reason - to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health of New Zealand's population," he said.

"The action by these individuals to knowingly travel here without approval demonstrates a blatant disregard for New Zealand's border restrictions."

However, a group representing yachties said while it didn't condone the actions of the German, they could understand how desperate they were.

Rear Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club, Guy Chester, said it reflected the terrible plight of hundreds of yachties stuck in the Pacific

Chester said he was disappointed that the governments of Australia and New Zealand appeared to be unwilling to help yachties in the Pacific.

The German yachties had applied for the exemption after they had already sailed for New Zealand.

Their application was declined because the Director-General of Health was not convinced the boat had a compelling need to come into the country.

The Ministry has previously provided guidance to potential applicants that 'humanitarian reasons' would be unlikely to include situations such as financial loss, or to vessels travelling mainly for pleasure or convenience such as tourists or 'wintering over' to avoid the hurricane/cyclone season in the Pacific.

This position has been widely communicated to the maritime community, including those in the South Pacific, the spokesperson said.

"While there were aspects of the case that were unfortunate, these did not rise to the threshold of a compelling humanitarian need. As much as our country is known for its hospitality, New Zealand cannot become a maritime Covid-19 safe haven for everyone in unfortunate circumstances."

Foreign yachties seeking refuge in New Zealand from seasonal Pacific cyclones have been campaigning for the move for months.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said in a statement the crew of the vessel have all been tested for Covid-19 and those tests were negative. They have also been isolated on their vessel for more than 14 days.

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