Uncertain time for stranded nurse: ‘I don’t know if I still have a job’

Barbara Anderson is stuck in Ashburton and doesn't know when she'll return home to Australia....
Barbara Anderson is stuck in Ashburton and doesn't know when she'll return home to Australia. PHOTO: ADAM BURNS / LDR
A Kiwi expat stranded in Ashburton is unsure if she still has a job after multiple return flights home to Queensland in Australia have been cancelled.

Gold Coast-based nurse Barbara Anderson is calling for greater urgency around returning essential workers back across the Tasman and is considering selling her house to help with "mounting bills".

Anderson had been holidaying in New Zealand for about a month before lockdown hit on August 17.

"I didn't book a return flight because you never know what's going to happen in this climate," she said.

Since lockdown she has had about six flights to various spots in Australia cancelled by Air New Zealand and had relied on friends and family for accommodation.

Air New Zealand’s Australian "red zone" flights, which were made available on Monday morning, were all sold out in about three minutes.

"It was pot luck basically," she said.

It remains uncertain when Anderson will return home after the Government confirmed last week that the transtasman bubble would remain closed until at least November.

Adding strain to her situation was that she was unsure whether her job would still be waiting for her when she does eventually return.

"[My employers] have been a bit vague, so do I have a job? I don't know," she said.

"It's major stress because the bills are coming in over in Australia."

She has also contemplated selling her Gold Coast home to ease financial pressure.

"I've got an agent lined up to help sell and pack up."

As an essential healthcare worker, the situation had left her frustrated as Australia's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) capacity had restricted the availability of flights.

"Sports teams appear to be swanning out and into New Zealand and preventing other New Zealanders taking up spots," she said.

"It's geared towards some people and not others. Any workers that need to return to gainful employment need to be prioritised."

Anderson had also reached out to Labour Party MP Jo Luxton's office for assistance.

- By Adam Burns
Local Democracy Reporter 

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