Stranded in Australia and running out of medication, Kiwi losing hope

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Jo-ani Robinson (Te Rarawa ki Hokianga), like many New Zealanders, is stranded in Australia. She made a flight over to visit her terminally ill son back in March but has since been stranded for over five months.

“I received a phone call from my tama, my son, quite distressed to say that he had just been diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer and wanted me to come over.”

She had a return flight booked but that disappeared once the trans-Tasman bubble popped. She has spent the past few months trying to sort this out with several government departments and it's been a difficult experience.

“It was quite blunt. It hasn't been compassionate. I'm amazed how they can treat superannuants this way. I feel let down by my country.”

Just last week, the government announced "red" flights were scheduled to start this month to rescue stranded travellers. However, the Ministry of Business has backpedalled saying that due to the current Delta outbreak and added pressures on MIQ hotels, the red flights have been suspended.

'Those who are overseas that are unable to return, there is the ability
to reach out to the mission potentially' - Carmel Sepuloni

In a statement, MBIE says the demand for MIQ rooms in New Zealand has increased significantly due to the need to accommodate hundreds of Covid-19 cases from the community in MIQ facilities.

“Consequently, we continue to evaluate MIQ capacity in this rapidly changing environment.”

Robinson, a superannuitant, says she has until September 20 to get back before her pension is stopped and will also be required to pay back the money she received while overseas.

She is living with a heart condition but she says medication at international prices is steep.

“I'm on heart medication. I've run out of the heart medication now. I'm not sure what to do there.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says she can't speak about individual cases but says she understands the difficulties.

"This is a difficult one. We did at one point extend support so those families continue to get it but again it couldn't continue in the long term. Those who are overseas that are unable to return, there is the ability to reach out to the mission potentially."