There is no doubt that the COVID situation has caused immense disruption in everyone’s lives all over the globe.
Here in New Zealand we are very lucky to be an isolated island nation with a relatively small population. Our only COVID cases currently are recent kiwi’s returning home and they are all isolated in quarantine enjoying our first class health care, while the rest of us go about our daily business without any worry of catching this terrible disease.
However after around six weeks of severe lock down, many people have lost their jobs, particularly those in the tourism industry. Some friends of mine have been particularly hard hit – and their plans for retiring on their yacht in Turkey have been shelved for the time being.
While the rest of the world looks at New Zealand as being a shining example of how things can be done well, all is NOT actually well for the international sailors who are stranded here. They’ve been given a visa extension to September 2020 – but post that their futures are uncertain, and many are getting the runaround from officials at Immigration New Zealand who don’t appear to have any clear direction from the Ministers in charge.
So it’s time to start asking some questions, and I’ve drafted a letter to the Ministers in charge of Immigration, Customs and Maritime New Zealand to try and get some clarity for the people who are currently stranded here.
Here is my first draft. I’d appreciate your comments/input. I will also be asking for other interested groups, local MP’s etc to join in and advocate on behalf of the stranded sailors, and will update on progress here as we go along!
3 July 2020
Hon Jenny Salesa
Minister of Customs
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
Minister of Immigration
Hon Phil Twyford
Minister of Transport (Maritime New Zealand)
I am writing on behalf of the hundreds of International sailors who are currently stranded in New Zealand due to the COVID-19 Travel Restrictions.
In March 2020, many of these yachts and crew were making preparations for departing New Zealand with the intention of spending our winter cruising in the Pacific. When the borders were closed due to COVID-19 the sailors were given blanket extensions to their visas until 25 September 2020 while the two-year TIE’s (Temporary Import Entry) for their vessels are still ticking down, with the ones expiring being extended to 1 September 2020.
September is just over eight weeks away now, but with this deadline looming, these sailors still have no certainty of their future, people are feeling very stressed and concerned about what may happen, and they really need some clarity on their position going forward.
There are three groups of people affected:
- International yachts and crew who are already here – but only have visas until September 2020 and an expiring TIE.
- International yachts that are here but the owners/crew are overseas and unable to return to New Zealand before their TIE expires.
- Foreign yachts wanting to come to NZ for the Pacific Cyclone Season – but currently have no certainty of getting in to the country.
The Pacific Cyclone Season runs from around November to April, and during this time yachts cruising around the Pacific are strongly encouraged to head south to either New Zealand or Australia to be in safe waters during this time of year. Every year around 300 – 500 yachts end up in either New Zealand or Australia during this time. While they are here, many take the opportunity to use our world class marine facilities to repair their boats, rigs and sails and to travel the country, bringing millions of dollars in to our country.
The visa blanket extension to 25 September 2020 was much appreciated when it was advised back in March, and expiring TIE’s on vessels were extended to 1 September. We feel it is extremely important for both the visitors visa’s and expiring TIE’s to be extended out until at least May 2021 as soon as possible.
Our reasons for this are as follows: On the 25th of September yachts & crews will currently only have two options – firstly to leave New Zealand, without proper time and notice to prepare themselves and their vessels, sending them out in to the start of the Pacific Cyclone Season, and potentially with no other countries in the Pacific being open to accommodate them, or for vessels with expiring TIE’s to pay duty and GST on their vessels to officially import them in to New Zealand – an extremely costly and unwanted formality for international visitors, who do not want their boat to be imported in to New Zealand, and really should not need to pay given the circumstances.
For vessels with expiring TIE’s some thought needs to be given to the yachts that are here but their crews overseas and unable to currently return.
Yachts and crew would need at least two months-notice of their requirement to depart to enable them to safely prepare and provision for a long ocean passage. It would also not be safe to send yachts away from New Zealand and in to the Pacific at that time of the year. Especially without any prospect of the Pacific Islands being open to accommodate them. Given a large chunk of the South Pacific comes under our own Rescue Coordination Centre’s jurisdiction, any rescues of foreign vessels forced to depart New Zealand would also come at the cost of the New Zealand tax payer.
Yachts currently in the Pacific should be given the opportunity to enter New Zealand during cyclone season. This will mean much less risk to life and property by remaining in the Pacific during this dangerous time. Many sailors are retired, their yachts are their home and insurance companies refuse to cover vessels in this area during the cyclone season. Their passage to New Zealand takes usually a week if not more, and they could safely anchor and accommodate themselves in Quarantine on arrival in New Zealand at no additional cost to the tax payer, and would bring an immense amount of business for our marine and tourism industry as well as many enthusiastic supporters of the Americas Cup Regatta.
In summary, we request that you consider:
- Extending the visitors visa’s and TIE on visiting crews and vessels to at least May 2021 to enable those whom are already here to safely wait out the Pacific Cyclone Season.
- That you extend the TIE on vessels whose owners are currently in their own countries and are unable to return to at least May 2021.
- That you allow international sailors currently in the Pacific to enter New Zealand to be safe during Pacific Cyclone Season, to quarantine for the required period on their own yacht’s at no cost to the NZ tax payer, to provide much needed income to our marine & tourism industry and to reduce the risk for the Rescue Coordination Centre who would be responsible for any rescues in our area during a risky time of year.
- If you have no intention of extending the visas and TIE’s of visiting sailors, you need to advise them of this as soon as possible to give them enough time to safely prepare and provision their vessels for a departure from New Zealand on 25 September 2020. Before making this decision, please also consider the implications for sending these yachts out in to the Pacific at a very risky time of year.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the suggestions mentioned above in more detail if required to obtain a beneficial outcome for the international sailing community currently in New Zealand.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Update 5 July.
We’ve got a bit of a plan in place now. If you’re affected here is what I need from you please share with other people concerned:
I’ve spoken to the MP I used to work for: Rt Hon David Carter and he is going to support our appeal to the Ministers involved.
What we need from everyone is a letter outlining your situation which we can use to accompany David’s letter to the Minister. Something along the lines as follows, but feel free to change as you wish!:
Rt Hon David Carter MP
Immigration NZ # & visa expiry date
TIE # & expiry date
Our names are XXX, we are from XXX country, we live aboard our sailing vessel XXX and are currently based in XXX.
Our New Zealand visitors visas expire on XXX, and our vessel’s TIE expires on XXX. We would like to request an extension of our visitors visa and TIE until XXX
Our situation is… (explain how long you’ve been in the country, what you’ve done while you’ve been here $’s spent in the economy etc, what would happen to you if you’re required to leave the country on 25 September, how much time you’d need to prepare your boat before you need to depart, why it would be dangerous to depart at that time of the year, the reasons why you can’t just go home, what you’ll do in NZ until say June next year if you can get an extension etc)
If you can email your letters to me on Viki.firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll collate them all together, and will send them all to David so they can go to the minister all together.
I think this collective appeal supported by an MP will be a strong voice and hopefully we will be able to get some answers on their intentions going forward.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks to everyone who has helped draft up this letter! Especially Dagma, BJ and Tania, and the awesome team on Women Who Sail New Zealand.
Please comment below with any suggestions on things I may have missed etc. Once the letter is finished I will let you know the next steps from there as to how you can help too!