31 Jul 2021

Free-for-all MIQ booking process is 'madness' - NZ couple

12:36 pm on 31 July 2021

Frustration, fear and now sympathy.

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Rob and Alison Thwaites are leaving MIQ this weekend after being granted a spot after getting in Sydney. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

It's been a month of heavy emotion for a Taranaki couple leaving MIQ this weekend, after being granted emergency spaces to return from the Sydney lockdown.

The bubble closure is just beginning for others left in New South Wales - unable to get an isolation space and catch a plane.

Rob and Alison Thwaites flew there last month when their son Christopher broke his neck.

The border closed just hours before their return flight, and they found themselves stuck in Australia as calving began on their farm at home.

They are grateful for emergency isolation spots they eventually received, but Rob Thwaites told RNZ the "free for all" booking process was "madness".

"I'm very very conscious of those that are left behind that are being treated very unfairly through the lack of a fair system."

Christopher is still recovering in Sydney - he can walk but he needs more surgery.

His parents phone him three times a day.

"He's in an Airbnb on his own and having to go to the hospital daily for what's required," Rob Thwaites said.

It is estimated about 21,000 New Zealanders have left for Australia since the bubble opened.

Yesterday the government began taking registrations for people in New South Wales for 500 places in managed isolation between 9 and 22 August.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the promise of getting everyone home from Australia still stood.

"What we have committed to though is that for every flight that's made available, it books out straightaway and there's extra demand. We will keep working with the airlines to ensure there's extra flights until we've extinguished that demand."

Some travellers desperate to get home

A man who set up a travel bubble group on Facebook is being flooded with pleas for help and advice as travellers in Australia desperately try to get home to New Zealand.

For the next two months, anyone returning from Australia must spend two weeks in quarantine.

Ashwin Naidu - a New Zealander living in Australia - said he is hearing heartbreaking stories from people dealing with cancelled flights, a lack of places in managed isolation, and mounting costs.

"Different government agencies are different answers to questions, so I think communication is a big issue when dealing with something stressful like this because it's people's lives."

Naidu said some people are paying for repeated pre-departure tests because of border changes.

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