Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Danger zones for NZ tourists

Government has helped families of nearly 1000 Kiwis who have died away from home
Sean Kenzie, with partner Amy Myles, is still recovering from a crash he was not insured against.
Sean Kenzie, with partner Amy Myles, is still recovering from a crash he was not insured against.

The Government has helped the families of more than 950 Kiwis who have died overseas and more than 200 who were injured in the past eight years, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It provided consular assistance in the cases of 956 New Zealanders who died overseas and 206 who were injured in 99 foreign countries between 2006 and September 25, 2013.

Information provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act showed help was given for 164 people who had died in Australia, 87 in Thailand, 75 in the United Kingdom, 48 in the United States and 32 each in Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Globetrotting Kiwis also requested help for injuries received in Thailand, with 26 people given assistance there in the same period. There were also 10 requests for help from both Italy and the United States, nine from Indonesia and eight each from Canada, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

A ministry official said it was not notified of every accident or death involving a New Zealander overseas nor of the cause of death or accident or reason for medical assistance.

Consular divisional manager Lyndal Walker said embassies and high commissions in foreign countries could only provide advice and support - not financial help.

The number of incidents showed the importance of registering with the ministry no matter where you were going, she said.

"In a crisis, it's often those registered with us who are contacted first to confirm they are okay and if they require our assistance. When we tried to contact New Zealanders thought to be running in the Boston marathon at the time of the bombing, we discovered that none had registered with us and some relatives had an anxious wait for news."

Ms Walker said of the 52 diplomatic posts around the world looking after the interests of New Zealand and its citizens, the embassy in Bangkok spent the most time managing consular cases, followed by Rome, Manila, Jakarta and New Delhi.

Research by Insurance Council members shows that one in five New Zealanders were heading overseas without comprehensive travel insurance. A survey of 3000 found more than half travelled overseas in 2013 but 22 per cent of those who went to China and 18 per cent to Australia had no travel insurance.

Council spokesman Samson Samasoni said hospital and medical treatment or medical evacuations could bring long-term financial burdens without insurance cover.

"It's important to understand that travellers are not automatically covered for medical treatment even when travelling to nearby destinations such as Australia or the Pacific Islands," he said.

It was important to check the wording of travel insurance policies, especially about pre-existing conditions.

$30 insurance slip-up costs $90,000

Lying in a Thai hospital with his jaw broken in 26 places, punctured lungs, a ruptured kidney, smashed knee and crushed teeth, Sean Kenzie was told he had not ticked the right box on his travel insurance.

Just hours after arriving in Bangkok in 2012, the New Zealander suffered the critical injuries when he was knocked off a moped he had hired to explore the city.

Instead of enjoying the holiday paid for by his work, he spent a month hooked to machines and racked up nearly $90,000 in medical bills he could not pay.

Mr Kenzie, 28, failed to request a special clause in his insurance that covered riding moped scooters.

"In the end it would have cost me an extra $30 at the insurance company and I would have been fully covered, whereas I thought I was."

Public generosity paid for his journey home - including an anonymous donation of $50,000 - but it took him eight months to recover physically and he still struggles with side-effects of his head injury.

"I get anxiety attacks and a little bit of depression from the accident.

"I've got scarring - when the handlebars came up through my face it took a big chunk out of my chin and pushed it up around by my ear, now there's a big lump of bone there that's not supposed to be there, but that's just superficial."

He also had to abandon his life in Perth and is now living in his native Napier with his Australian partner, Amy Myles.

The high number of Kiwis hurt and killed in Thailand did not shock the unemployed builder.

In the year of his accident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped the families of 10 New Zealanders killed in the country and five who had accidents there.

Since 2006, government assistance has helped with 87 New Zealanders' deaths in Thailand and 26 accidents.

"It doesn't surprise me at all. It's Third World over there. It's a nice place to visit but it's not very well established. It doesn't surprise me that people go there and die all the time. I have even seen it on the TV a few times since I have been back which is crazy.

"It shows that I didn't draw the short straw on that one after all."

Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz for travel advice.

Dangerous places for Kiwis 2006-2013
Injuries (total)

1. Thailand (26)
2= Italy and United States (10)
4. Indonesia (9)
5= Canada, Fiji and Papua New Guinea (8)

Deaths (total)

1. Australia (164)
2. Thailand (87)
3. United Kingdom (75)
4. United States (48)
5= Hong Kong and Indonesia (32)

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

- NZ Herald

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