Kiwi sailors stranded abroad find way to enter New Zealand bypassing MIQ


By Robin Martin from RNZ

After months of unsuccessfully trying to secure a Managed Segregation and Quarantine (MIQ) space, an Auckland woman decided to return home across the Pacific.

She and three other Kiwis are on a 40 foot yacht making a 2,200 nautical mile voyage from Tahiti to Opua.

Katrina Hughes had expected a bumpy trip, but said it would be worth it to reunite with her friends and family.

Normally chief steward on superyachts, she spent two years navigating Covid-19 hotspots around the world before deciding to leave the ship in the United States earlier this year and make arrangements to return home. she.

But after making a number of unsuccessful offers to secure an MIQ spot, she became disillusioned.

“I was like ‘fuck, I’ll try a third time’ … but you have a better chance of winning the damn lottery than this MIQ spot … and the third time I was 18,000 years old. [in line] so I said to myself “this is a joke, it does not work”.

“And that’s when I heard about this guy who had decided to travel from Australia to New Zealand. Back home. He was a Kiwi guy.

“He ended up getting back on the boat and I thought it was actually a good idea and I’m from the sailing world and started asking a few questions.”

Hughes was put in touch with a New Zealand skipper who had bought a yacht in Tahiti so he could return home and who was looking for a Kiwi crew.

Katrina Hughes says the MIQ system is “awful… it just takes you off a little every time”. Photo / Supplied

“So there are three Kiwis, all sailors. We have all come from different regions. We have a guy who works on the fishing boats in Mauritius and we got another plane from the Philippines and the skipper was actually here a few weeks before we got the boat up. “

To meet Covid-19 maritime border protocols, the yacht was registered in New Zealand and acquired a new name in the process – the SV Kingfisher.

The yacht left Pape’ete on Friday and expected to take 16 days to reach Opua in Northland.

Hughes said it wouldn’t be easy.

“Sometimes it can be absolutely beautiful, but on the other hand, it can also be incredibly brutal. You will definitely get seasick.

“There will be times when the weather hits you for days and days and it’s a little smaller boat than I’m used to, but we all have the same goal in mind.”

Marooned Seafarers spokesperson Kevin Judkins maintains a database of New Zealand sailors stranded abroad.

He put Hughes in touch with the skipper of the Kingfisher who asked not to be identified.

“Katrina and her colleagues are on this database and one of them is a captain I think on a passenger ship. He was in Europe and he couldn’t get home, so he decided to buy a yacht and outfit her with sailors from the diaspora and return to New Zealand to bypass MIQ requirements. “

Judkins said all things being equal, the trip to Opua should do the trick.

“To get to Tahiti they would have had to have a negative Covid-19 test and they probably would have had a test just before they left Tahiti, so the 16-day trip counts as a 14-day quarantine period.

“So as long as they test negative for Covid upon arrival at Opua, they do not have to undertake MIQ.”

Hughes still couldn’t believe her efforts to circumvent the MIQ lobbying system.

“It’s absolutely crazy. It’s so disheartening when every time you try to get an MIQ spot and every time you end up going further and further you ask yourself ‘is this? for real, is anyone playing a joke on me right now? “

“It’s awful. It’s awful and when you go through that over time, it just takes you a little bit of time each time and I was like ‘damn it, there has to be another way home. oneself in one’s own country “.”

She can’t wait to spend Christmas with her family.

“I hope for Christmas, yes. I’d be worried if we didn’t do it for Christmas, let’s just say something would’ve gone seriously wrong. “

According to the MIQ website, private yachts are not exempt from border closures and authorization is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The captain must obtain clearance before leaving for New Zealand.

Upon arrival at Opua, the Kingfisher crew will need to perform a health check, obtain customs clearance and pass a Covid-19 test.

They will also need permission from the local medical officer of health before disembarking.