Lockdown 'like Alcatraz': Brit tourist in NZ

A British tourist stuck in New Zealand during national lockdown has told his story to his local newspaper in the UK, complaining about his entertainment options but praising Kiwis' shopping behaviour.

Mike Rowland (69) and wife Yvonne (67) told Bristol Live that they feel "abandoned to fate" after the British Consulate in Auckland shut up shop, leaving them stuck in a small motel unit with no prospect of getting home.

Among other complaints, Rowland took aim squarely at Kiwi television, saying that breakfast TV was "like a sixth form experiment" and protesting that it didn't provide him with the information he needed.

"There is no information. Even the breakfast news here is like a sixth form experiment compared to Good Morning Britain," Rowland told Bristol Live.

"It really is desperate. Piers Morgan is a God compared to what we are looking at."

Rowland admitted that boredom was starting to become a problem for him and his wife, saying they were missing some home comforts.

"Lockdown at home would be bad enough, but at least I could get the jigsaw out, or my wife could do some knitting," Rowland said.

"We can't do that. We've only got what we travelled with eight weeks ago.

"The TV over here is dreadful. Thank God for the BBC. There are about three local channels here that play things like Love Island Australia repeatedly.

"How do you fill your days in a seven by five-metre motel room? I have my Kindle, but there are only so many books you can read."

Rowland said although other travellers were stuck in the same motel, they were observing social distancing and so hadn't been able to socialise with them.

"It's a bit like Alcatraz here," he said. "We can't go up and talk to the other people.

"We have to phone them or WhatsApp them, even though they're in the next room. It is quite surreal."

He did praise New Zealanders' approach to supermarket shopping, saying that panic buying had not been as bad as in the UK and "we go to the supermarkets and the shelves are full."

'Holiday of a lifetime'

The Rowlands' trip to New Zealand had been a "holiday of a lifetime", Mike Rowland told Bristol Live, saying that coronavirus was "in the dim and distant future" when they first arrived on February 13.

"By the time we got to Taupō in the North Island on March 14, it was starting to get a bit more serious but there was still no reason for us to change anything.

"We were supposed to fly home with Singapore Airlines on March 25. We were going to fly from Auckland, stop at Singapore and then get a flight the next day to Heathrow," he said.

"On March 23, Singapore stopped all transit passengers into the country and our flights were cancelled. From that point on we've been stranded."

The British High Commission in Wellington said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke to NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters at the weekend to find a way to get home for more than 8900 British nationals who have registered as still stuck in New Zealand.

Rowland said he was conflicted about his trip, telling Bristol Live the couple were "having a gap retirement."

"This was meant to be one of two trips of a lifetime. The first six weeks were wonderful – I would use the word 'sensational'.

"We had great weather and stunning scenery. It has now turned into a bit of a nightmare."


He complains like the Prince of Wales, David, visiting NZ in the 'thirties.

He’s correct - NZ television is junk and completely uninformative.

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