The owners of a Canterbury pipe business who went on what they thought was a short business trip to Australia last year are unable to return and say they are forced to sell their house.
Australians Jenny and Gerard van den Bosch say what was meant to be a quick Queensland trip last July from Canterbury has left them stranded for more than six months and in debt to such an extent they are having to sell.
"At either side of 70, we are in debt and unable to do our work. Here we are, camping out, imposing on friends and family and making resources stretch as far as we can," Jenny van den Bosch said. "We have put our home on the market to support the business and survive."
Both are Australians but have New Zealand residency. Gerard has been in New Zealand for 29 years and Jenny for 10 years.
Last month, the Government announced a suite of measures to try to minimise the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron.
Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 Response Minister, said that included delaying the start of non-MIQ travel until the end of February and encouraging people to get boosters.
Waiting till the end of February would increase New Zealand's overall protection and slow Omicron's eventual spread, Hipkins said on December 21.
The Canterbury couple of Aquaduct 2020 and Bosch Irrigation employs four staff near Amberley, 50km from Christchurch and up to 35 casual workers when it has a large project on.
They own a home on Glasnevin Rd, Amberley where offers of more than $1.1 million are being sought.
"We're selling partly due to being here but we're also looking to move back to Australia eventually - when we can. We're running a business in New Zealand and have projects coming up there," she said.
Their exile is due to what seemed to them at the time an innocuous short trip for business.
"Gerard was asked to do a four-week contract job for a consortium of growers who are planning an irrigation scheme in remote Far North Queensland," Jenny van den Bosch said.
"We went there on July 4 last year when there was a New Zealand-Australia travel bubble," she said. But while they were there, the borders shut and they've been stuck ever since.
"Gerard should be back in Canterbury, on-site, supervising and encouraging his team and sourcing new work. Instead, we are competing with 30,000 other Kiwis we have been up at day-break and tried to get into the cruel cynical lottery for 3000 places," she said of the managed isolation quarantine lottery where thousands tried for places this month.
She says they are now in the terrible position of trying to run a business in Canterbury from Tasmania.
"After we completed our Queensland contract in early August, we wandered that state, combining some family accommodation west of Brisbane with camping and from time to time a motel or B and B for rest and clean up," she said.
At the end of September, they went to Tasmania where they have family but she says they could not stay with them indefinitely.
"We are thankful to have been able to rent a small single bedroom unit on a farm 40 minutes from Hobart. There's not much going in a very hot rental market especially if you can't sign a lease because you don't know how long you'll be staying," she said.
The business has lost money "well into the six figures", she says. Revenue, potential earnings and accommodation costs are all taking a toll.
She has joined the social media group Grounded Kiwis and says they have invested heavily in a worthwhile business that provides a good service and necessary equipment for agriculture and other purposes.
"Gerard should be on-site, supervising and encouraging his team and sourcing new work. Instead, we have had to deal with localising our banking, phones, and medical arrangements in a country where we are not residents. We have had to find funds to buy a car. The promised mid-January opening carrot was held in front of us and now that's been moved again," van den Bosch said.
Their company has a large bore pipe factory that can relocate in containers to make pipe on-site for big water infrastructure.
"This is project-based work so it is intermittent," she said.
They also import and sell industrial and rural solar gear for an income stream between projects and Gerard van den Bosch also provides consulting on water infrastructure design solutions, she said.