Charter flights under consideration for international students returning to Wellington

Source: 1News

Educational institutions, alongside immigration and health authorities, are investigating measures to allow international students to safely return to Wellington next month, including the possibility of chartered aircraft.

In a statement, WellingtonNZ general manager David Perks today said border controls restricting international students from entering the country must be loosened soon to allow the sector to rebuild.

“The economic importance of international students is apparent, but they also bring important diversity to our learning environments by enriching the social and cultural life both within educational institutes and Wellington in general," Mr Perks said.

“When you add in the fact that many international students who graduate in Wellington choose to live and work here, it’s plain to see the importance of getting all our students back as they bring vibrancy and prosperity to the heart of Wellington.”

In 2017, Wellington’s 8504 international students spent $390 million on tuition and living costs and $20 million on student tourism in Wellington during 2017/18, supporting 3750 jobs. An additional $40 million was generated by friends and relatives visiting students in Wellington, supporting a further 540 jobs.

Victoria University of Wellington professor Grant Guilford said getting international students to capital for the start of the second trimester in July would be hugely beneficial for the recruitment, retention and academic progress of the students.

He said the university, along with other educational institutions, is working alongside the appropriate health and immigration authorities "to define the quarantine process required to safely bring students into Wellington". 

“We are investigating the possibility of chartering an aircraft to make the experience as simple as possible for students. Whether this idea gets lift-off depends on a range of factors," Mr Guilford said.

“But having international students live and study in Wellington is important not just to the university but also to the students themselves who receive a world class education coupled with the experience of life in one of the greatest and safest capital cities in the world.”

Whitireia and WelTec chief executive Mark Oldershaw said the return of international students is an integral part of the diversity and culture of both institutes and crucial to the sustainability of the sector.

“We want to continue to build on the strong foundation we have, further strengthen our international connections while of course, ensuring we manage the health risks for New Zealanders,” he said.

Whitireia and WelTec are now planning how to bring international students into the country safely, Mr Oldershaw said.

This includes providing accommodation during the compulsory quarantine period, and health and wellbeing services for students to help them manage the lockdown in a new country.

Wellington Airport has since been collaborating with Government ministries, boarder agencies, airlines and other airports to safely facilitate international arrivals, Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said.

“Currently international arrivals are subject to public health requirements and quarantine processes to ensure any Covid-19 risks are well managed.”