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Kiwis, tourists rush to return home hours before domestic travel shuts down

Kiwis around the country are hopping on board planes, trains and ferries as they return home just hours before domestic travel is shut down.

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The extra few days has allowed most Kiwis to get where they want to be. Source: 1 NEWS

Auckland Airport this morning saw a slow wind-down as travellers left the country amid the nationwide lockdown, which came into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

It was also a quieter day on the Cook Strait ferries, with campers grateful for the two-day extension to return home.

Domestic travellers were initially given until midnight Wednesday to return home before the Covid-19 lockdown. 

“Suddenly, it was level 4 and here we were in Wanaka with 48 hours to get back to Picton so it was panic,” traveller Jennifer Harvey told 1 NEWS.

“The last week we've not been to any cafes, we've always made all our meals in our caravan, so breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we're getting there,” traveller Anne Lynley said.

Nine-thousand people have been ferried on the Interislander this week, with the shipping company seeing a level of demand typically seen around the Christmas period.

KiwiRail CEO Greg Miller said staff are working around the clock to meet demand.

“Separation on the ships has meant less numbers can travel on a single ship,” he said. “The advent of a 50 per cent increase in volume has meant we work right around the clock on every vessel - virtually 80 sailings in a week.”

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Tom Hill, who returned from the UK, had tickets to continue on to Nelson, but was told he could not. Source: Breakfast

However, it’s not just Kiwis still trying to get home - some governments are chartering flights for tourists stuck in the country.

Up to 12,000 Germans are among those clamouring to get on-board and go home.

“I'm really, really grateful to the German government for putting up this programme,” German tourist Tom Piesold said.

Mr Piesold is currently staying in a hostel as he waits for a flight home.

“Obviously, right now there's the time you want to be with your family and friends. At the same time, I'm lucky I'm in New Zealand.”

The Foreign Ministry says there are still 24,000 Kiwis registered as being overseas, and admits it’s increasingly difficult to get them back.