Aust-based Kiwis miss out at NZ border

·2-min read

Jacinda Ardern's government stands accused of abandoning Australia-based Kiwis and denying them a pathway to return to New Zealand.

New Zealanders based in Australia were excluded from a Wednesday ballot for quarantine places to enter NZ, and it is not yet clear when they will be able to return.

Grounded Kiwis, a support group for the thousands of New Zealanders impacted by NZ's hardline border rules, called the decision "messed up".

The ballot was oversubscribed, with more than 10,000 applications for just 1250 rooms.

"There will be a lot of heartbreak today," the group wrote on Twitter.

The decision to not include Australia-based Kiwis is a catch-22 situation.

The government says they were excluded as "airlines do not currently have any red flights scheduled from Australia for March or April", but those flights are not scheduled as airlines are waiting for clarity from the government on its reopening plans.

In November, the government announced New Zealanders in Australia would be able to bypass quarantine, known locally as MIQ, from January 17.

In December, it backtracked on the pledge, citing the threat of Omicron.

The reopening is now slated for late February, but there is little certainty around the new date.

Opposition party ACT leader David Seymour said Ms Ardern owed "Kiwis stuck in Australia an apology for leaving them stranded with no flights for today's MIQ lottery".

"The government should have worked with airlines to ensure vaccinated, negative-tested Kiwis have a pathway home," he said.

MIQ officials say they are working with individuals who travelled to Australia after the November announcement believing they had safe passage home, to ensure they are not stranded.

However, that does little for the thousands of others looking to return.

Grounded Kiwis is taking the government to court later this month, believing the balloted approach to entry breaks New Zealand's Bill of Rights.

Health officials reported 19 new community cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 43 cases at the border - with Omicron continuing "to be the most prevalent variant at our borders".

New Zealand has reported just three Omicron community cases, each of which has been isolated.

There are 38 people in hospital with COVID-19, including four in intensive care.

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