The family of a Kiwi school girl separated from her cancer-stricken mum after an Australian holiday turned into a six-month ordeal are desperate to reunite the pair after an extension to the MIQ gauntlet.
Waikato 11-year-old Nicole Edinger flew to Brisbane at the end of July to see her father Trent Edinger and meet her new half-brother.
But on the day Nicole arrived the New Zealand government put the transtasman bubble on hold, indefinitely separating her from her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer this year.
The pause in quarantine-free travel between the two countries has continued ever since.
On Tuesday, the much anticipated January 17 MIQ end date for Kiwis in Australia was abruptly extended to at least the end of February due the growing Omicron threat.
The decision has dashed the hopes of thousands of Kiwis who are stranded overseas and desperate to see loved ones back home, and who now face at least six more weeks of the MIQ lottery system.
Edinger said because the transtasman bubble was initially only paused until September they weren’t too concerned as it meant his daughter could have an extended holiday with him, his partner and new baby.
But when the bubble reopening was delayed by another two months, they enrolled her in school. Nicole has just finished her second term.
Nicole was then booked on a quarantine-free green flight for early December, but it was cancelled a week and a half before she was due to fly.
Edinger booked her another flight for February 5 which was yesterday cancelled, following the extension of border restrictions.
“We are just trying to get her home because her mum is sick and obviously her mum misses her as it has been six months now,” Edinger said.
Nicole’s mum had also planned to try to secure an MIQ seat in yesterday’s MIQ lobby release before learning it had been cancelled and the next one delayed until January 6.
Edinger claims his attempts to get Nicole an exemption to return home had either been ignored or he’d been sent around in circles.
Asked for comment on Nicole’s case, an MBIE spokesperson directed the Herald to a statement on the MIQ website relating to MIQ exemptions.
“Decisions on exemptions from managed isolation are not easy ones to make and we are very sympathetic to the distressing situations people applying for exemption from managed isolation are in,” the statement said.
“Exemptions from managed isolation are approved in very few circumstances. Applications for exemptions are considered on a case-by-case basis and the threshold for approval is very high.”
“Most exemptions are granted for people to join unaccompanied minors, people in transit, or people whose medical needs require hospital-level care.”
Nicole had travelled to Australia with her grandfather who also lives there. The rest of her family are in New Zealand.
If they did manage to get an MIQ spot, they would then have to find someone to stay in MIQ with Nicole.
Edinger said he personally couldn’t as his passport had expired and he could not afford to miss four weeks of work during two stints in isolation.
While it was great having his daughter with him, she belonged home in New Zealand with her mum, he said.
If they waited until the border restrictions eased at the end of February, she would also miss the start of high school.
He described the situation as “ridiculous” and “beyond frustrating” while also very upsetting and draining on the entire family.
“I’d love for her to stay, but she’s got to go home to her mum. She misses her mum, she misses her family. Her mum has been sick so she wants to go home and keep an eye on her mum.”
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said this week the Government had tried to provide certainty and he was “sorry” not to meet the January 17 MIQ end date.
Covid continued to throw up more challenges and certainty had been a “rare commodity”.
The Edingers’ plight has mirrored that of thousands of Kiwis around the globe.
Auckland-based Michael Hine is dreading having to tell his 11-year-old son Aiden in the US that the youngster can’t move to New Zealand to live with him in March as planned.
The truck driver hasn’t seen his son since December 2019 and has been trying for 18 months to get him into New Zealand, but cannot secure an MIQ spot.
“This Government has left me broke and now very broken and now how am I going to tell my 11-year old son that he can’t come in March to live and I don’t know when now,” Hine said.
“It’s cruel and insane.”
Lily Wong and her husband flew to Australia when the bubble was open in July to visit their daughter studying in Melbourne. They have been unable to secure an MIQ spot to return home.
The couple, who both have booster shots, had booked a flight for January 23 anticipating the end of MIQ. It’s a plan now dashed.
“It’s really crushing our hearts.”
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