Google boss wanted child's evacuation to NZ kept quiet

Google co-founder Larry Page secured New Zealand residency under the wealthy investor category....
Google co-founder Larry Page secured New Zealand residency under the wealthy investor category. Photo: Getty Images
Government emails about billionaire Larry Page show he wanted his child's medical evacuation to New Zealand to be kept quiet.

The Google co-founder was allowed to enter New Zealand amid Covid-19 border restrictions in January this year.

His child was treated at Auckland Hospital after being airlifted from Fiji with his father.

The visit also enabled Immigration New Zealand to approve Page's residence as an investor, which could not be approved while he was offshore.

An email from private air ambulance company New Zealand Air Ambulance Service (NZAAS) to Customs and health officials noted the family had requested a "high level of discretion and confidentiality".

The company's website details its services including offering a "comprehensive medical assistance service to international patients from the South Pacific enabling them access to world class healthcare in New Zealand".

"Please may we kindly request approval for our Air Ambulance, ZK-RXD departure approval 12 Jan 2021, for a medivac retrieval," NZAAS wrote in an email to Customs and the Ministry of Health.

"Our team have been activated to retrieve a patient to receive treatment here in New Zealand. Please note that the family have requested a high level of discretion and confidentiality regarding this medivac."

That email was sent on January 7, although Health Minister Andrew Little later told Parliament the Health Ministry was notified of the request on January 11. The New Zealand High Commission in Fiji said the decision to fly the child to Auckland was made after months of consultation.

An email from the Ministry of Health showed that Page would be isolating at the hospital, although it is believed he stayed at an managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility. "Costs [of the medivac] are covered privately, pick-up will be airside and patient and father will be taken via ambulance to Starship".

"In hospital [the child] and Lawrence will be screened as per Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) Covid-19 screening protocols and will stay in an isolation room," said another email. "[They] will comply with the infection prevention and control guidelines of the ADHB."

They received an urgent medical visa and were flown in with an ICU flight nurse and doctor. Page's investor residence visa was approved three weeks after they arrived.

MIQ has refused an RNZ request under the Official Information Act (OIA) for correspondence about the medical evacuation, as it returned more than 1800 results in a search of content management and emails from October last year.

Requests to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and ministers about Page's investor visa application and the medical evacuation have passed the statutory deadline for a response.

When his residence was revealed last month, INZ said Page - believed to be the sixth-richest person in the world - first applied for residence last November under the investor 1 category. It requires applicants to invest at least $10 million in New Zealand over three years.

"As he was offshore at the time, his application was not able to be processed because of Covid-19 restrictions," it said.

"Once Mr Page entered New Zealand, his application was able to be processed and it was approved on 4 February 2021."

Comments

It seems this was an entirely legitimate medical transfer, taking a child directly to Starship Hospital. Therefore the family are absolutely entitled to privacy in this matter, especially as they funded the transfer themselves. Why is this newsworthy?

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