Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken on the current issue facing two Warriors players who left New Zealand to play in the restarted NRL but won't be allowed back in the country when the season is over.
It was revealed yesterday Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumada are effectively stuck in Australia at the moment because New Zealand's borders are closed to all but citizens or permanent residents to curb the spread of Covid-19, meaning the duo have been excluded from returning as they are on work visas.
Ms Ardern was questioned about the pair's situation today, asked why some non-citizens such as America's Cup participants are allowed into New Zealand but others such as Katoa and Ravutaumada aren't.
She said there isn't a straight-forward answer.
“I’d say that from what I’ve been briefed on that’s a matter that’s still looking to be resolved. But I think it just demonstrates the complexity of those issues at our border," the Prime Minister said.
"Of course citizens, permanent residents obviously able to come straight through. Those who might be on visas but there are economic reasons for them being here, that takes a bit more of a process.
"I understand that’s still a case that’s been worked through.”
Both Tonga-born Katoa and Fijian Ravutaumada moved to New Zealand as teenagers on sport scholarships and have been residents for more than three years. Ravutaumada was even selected for the Junior Kiwis in that time.
But Ms Ardern said other factors need to be considered.
“We’ve set some really clear criteria and that’s something that we have officials that work through those applications. But we are very clear that if you are outside that category of being a citizen or permanent resident there are expectations that you meet certain criteria so that we can see that the need for you to come here is linked into the wider wellbeing of New Zealand as well.”
Warriors chief executive Cameron George said the pair will live in his family home in Australia after the season if need be until the issue is resolved.