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The Government's MIQ department has been working behind the scenes to ensure hundreds of Kiwi residents and citizens who travelled to Australia in late 2021 will get a guaranteed room in hotel quarantine if they want it.
But the 430 people who have so far been given these MIQ vouchers still have to pay roughly $1600 per adult for the 10-day hotel stay.
The specific group of travellers the MIQ department is contacting are those New Zealand citizens and residents who travelled to Australia and expected to be able to return home after January 17 this year.
On November 24, the Government announced it would be ending MIQ and allowing self-isolation for New Zealand citizens and residents returning home from Australia as of January 17.
However, with the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant across the globe during December, the Covid-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on December 21 they would be reneging on this January 17 MIQ end date.
There are three different categories of Kiwis stuck in Australia which the MIQ department is focusing on to help:
1. People who travelled to Australia following the Government's announcement on November 24, 2021, and before December 22, 2021, with return tickets to New Zealand from January 17, 2022 onwards. These people did not have a managed isolation voucher as they had expected to return to self-isolate.
2. People due to travel from Australia between January 17, 2022, and late February 2022 who do hold a voucher but who have been affected by flight cancellations. The Government is working with airlines and those people to reschedule their vouchers to match up with rescheduled flights.
3. Those travelling from Australia who held a managed isolation voucher for prior to the end of February who proactively cancelled it thinking they wouldn't need it as they would be able to self-isolate from January 17, 2022.
It is much-needed help to navigate the MIQ lottery, given the 12 per cent success rate of the last round of MIQ allocation for Kiwis stranded across the globe.
The latest January 6 room release saw 10,995 people in the queue on behalf of 16,617 total applicants.
Of them, only 1190 people secured room vouchers for themselves and others, allowing for 1810 people to arrive in New Zealand. It was a success rate of 12 per cent of those who joined the queue.
Air NZ and other airlines sent emails in early January to the New Zealand citizens and residents in Australia who fit one of the above three criteria.
"We are working with MIQ to contact customers who travelled to Australia prior to December 21, to match flights with MIQ availability and allocate a voucher for a stay in managed isolation," the Air NZ customer service email said.
"As you travelled from New Zealand to Australia between November 24, 2021 and December 21, 2021 and were booked to return between January 17, 2022 and February 28, 2022 you can expect to obtain a voucher, but will need to email MIQ directly at firstname.lastname@example.org."
"Please note there will be a cost for your 10-day stay in MIQ however you will be charged at a 7-day stay rate.
"As there is very limited capacity over this period, it is possible you may not be able to travel on the date you originally booked or you may need to travel via another departure point. Our Contact Centre team are available to help you with rebooking."
As of January 10 the site says MIQ has issued 430 people with vouchers and are working with the remainder of eligible travellers.
On the Government's MIQ website it says that due to volume of requests, queries from people outside the above three groups will not be dealt with.
Under the new "Travellers from Australia" page on the MIQ website, there are a number of other changes for Kiwis hoping to get home from across the Tasman.
A temporary emergency allocation category is being implemented for New Zealand citizens in Australia who face significant and severe hardship if they do not return to New Zealand by the end of February. Applications will be accepted between January 13 and February 13, for travel to occur within 14 days.
Applicants for this emergency allocation should meet either a criteria where a delay in travelling to New Zealand beyond the end of February will result in significant financial hardship.
Or, where a delay in travelling to New Zealand beyond the end of February will result in homelessness or an otherwise unsafe living condition.
The MIQ website has also announced that they are working with government agencies and airlines in relation to the delayed border opening and possible flight schedules for red flights in March and April.
Currently airlines do not have any red flights scheduled from Australia for March or April. Red flights mean travellers need to spend time in MIQ.
The final brief option listed for Kiwis stuck in Australia is to "wait until the review of Step One of Reconnecting New Zealand in late February".