Border delays leave NZ family homeless, jobless in Australia

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

A Kiwi mother-of-two has been waiting almost two weeks for a decision on a temporary emergency allocation for those in Australia affected by the delay to New Zealand's border reopening.

Alyse Brenstrum and her partner sold their house in September last year, planning to move home to Northland after 12 years of living in Australia.

“The bubble burst and we couldn’t fly,” she says.

A caravan they moved into temporarily has also since been sold, with the family expecting they’d be able to return home this month - they are now staying in their relatives’ renovated shed, as they wait to hear if they have gotten an MIQ slot.

“I’ve been absolutely devastated by the delay to this, as my daughter is due to start school this year, and we have been out of work, as my husband’s tools were all sent to New Zealand.”

But with the rise of Omicron, the reopening was pushed back, and with no planned date for the next MIQ room release - the family is still in limbo.

“The hardest part is just not knowing when we are going to be told anything, it might not come to fruition, just like the announcement on the 21st of December was pulled back on us.”

The Government did announce a temporary emergency allocation for New Zealand citizens who face “significant and severe hardship” if they did not return to New Zealand by the end of February.

This was designed for those who were living in an unsafe, or insecure living situation, or who would face significant financial hardship.

“You hear what they say in their press conferences that no Kiwi is locked out of New Zealand and if they had to do this process themselves, they would feel locked out…they would feel left behind,” Alyse says.

“We always expected we could come home again, we never expected we’d get cut off.”

An MIQ spokesperson says there were currently high volumes of emergency allocation requests as a result of the travel delay.

“If people have submitted an application, we appreciate their patience and will be in contact with them as soon as we can.”

Pressure has been growing for the Government to release its plans around MIQ and give Kiwis stuck offshore more certainty about their ability to return home.

Next month a group called Grounded Kiwis is taking the case to court, saying the system as it stands is “unfair” and “valid emergency applications are being denied”.

It’s claim is that this is in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 that states every citizen has a right to return home.

University of Otago Law professor Andrew Geddis says there is a tug between the need to protect the health of the nation during this pandemic and the right of Kiwis to return home.

“The right to return is not an absolute one,” he says. “The threat posed by Covid is a big one.”

Geddis says if the court does rule how MIQ (in its previous form) was improperly applied “it would be politically embarrassing…But it wouldn’t fundamentally change the system".

But if the court ruled MIQ in its current form wasn’t justified, that would hold bigger ramifications.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, told a media conference that a plan on the phased reopening of New Zealand to the world would be decided on in the next fortnight.

The court case challenging the MIQ system gets underway in three weeks’ time – after the Crown’s legal team requested an adjournment to have more time to respond to matters raised in the claim.