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Quarantine rule change considered to help Kiwi seafarers get home

The Government will consider changing the rules to make it easier for Kiwi seafarers working around the world to access managed isolation spots and return home.

Nathan Schumacher is an offfshore geotechnical engineer and an advocate for dozens of seafarers trying to return to New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

Transport Minister Michael Wood told 1 NEWS today that he will promptly review the current settings after receiving correspondence from seafarers on the matter.  

"I have immense sympathy for these people because many of them have been out of New Zealand for an extended period of time and that's why I'm willing to look into it and do to so relatively quickly," Wood said.

"It will also be a matter for the Immigration and MIQ spaces in terms of ministerial responsibilities so I will be engaging with those colleagues...in the coming weeks"

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Nathan Schumacher is an offfshore geotechnical engineer and an advocate for dozens of seafarers trying to return to New Zealand.

Schumacher told 1 NEWS many seafarers have not been home in over six months as they cannot access spots in MIQ.

He said they often have "poor internet connectivity, do not know when they fly [in and out] as their work is variable, and berthing spots in port are often last minute", making it almost impossible to book MIQ spots in advance.

Schumacher wants seafarers to have priority access to MIQ spots in recognition of the essential work they do, and was pleased to hear it was under consideration.

"Allowing repatriation of our seafarers to return home unhindered via the MIAS will significantly reduce the stress and burden these families are feeling, being away from loved ones for so long, and allowing livelihoods to be maintained and returned back to some form of normality."

New Zealand has officially designated seafarers as key workers through the International Maritime Organisation, in recognition of their work supporting the global supply trade. 

The Government is also amending legislation so maritime levies can be used to fund extra support for international seafarers while in New Zealand.

Wood says it will not only give the Seafarers Welfare Board long-term funding certainty, it will also allow New Zealand to meet its international commitments to support seafarers' wellbeing.