A Kiwi couple trapped in Australia is relieved that they will be able to return to New Zealand within a few weeks.
"It's marvellous. I thought she was going to put it back to April. I can't believe it," said relieved pensioner Maureen Wardle from Queensland today of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's border reopening announcement.
Wardle and her husband Rob are just two of the many Kiwi pensioners stranded in Australia with no super because they have been out of New Zealand for too long.
With borders shut, the Papamoa couple in their 80s had been asked to repay $16,000 but today, Maureen Wardle was simply relieved they could begin to plan their return from the end of this month.
Hobsonville pensioners Keith and Michele Gorrett, sleeping on a friend's couch in Brisbane, were also celebrating this morning.
Ardern has just announced that from 11.59pm on February 27, fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers from Australia will be able to return and instead of going into MIQ, will be able to self-isolate.
"Oh my God, that is the best news ever. I don't know what to say, it's been so long and so hard. My wife's crying here as well. Fantastic news," Keith Gorrett said.
Michele Gorrett said the fact that they could isolate at home when they returned to Auckland was also great news.
"I don't know how going into a hotel was ever going to work," she said referring to their financial situation, without any pension and facing the prospect of being asked to repay $16,000.
Keith Gorrett said: "We did apply for a fee waiver from MIQ but that all falls away now".
Maureen Wardle said: "I was telling everyone it could be delayed. We can get off and hopefully we might have got our pension sorted out by then.
"That's such great news," she said.
The Wardles had their pensions stopped in November because they were out of New Zealand for more than the maximum 26 weeks. They left here last April because he needed surgery and she said it was much faster in Australia.
Now, the Ministry of Social Development wants all the $16,000 it paid over those 26 weeks back again.
The Gorretts are members of Grounded Kiwis and they said because they were following that, they had known there would be a big announcement.
Michele Gorrett also has a sister in Auckland "who's keeping us in the loop. We didn't think it was going in one stage like this. We thought it would be phased in from March", Michele Gorrett said.
They have a March 4 flight already booked from Brisbane to Auckland on Air New Zealand, leaving at 11.10am.
In the meantime, they will be trying to talk MSD about their pensions, spurred by Ardern yesterday saying they should contact the ministry to discuss their individual case.
Neither couple could return last July when the border was open to allow Kiwis to come back from Australia.
Rob Wardle was undergoing surgery then and the Gorretts had only arrived in early July. The Gorretts had lived in Australia for more than a decade and only returned to New Zealand in 2020.
They went back last July because they had matters to take of, including dealing with a vehicle as well as wanting to see family and grandchildren.
Keith Gorrett has a British passport and is a permanent New Zealand resident while his wife is a Kiwi citizen. The Wardles are both Kiwi citizens and have left their home at Papamoa, never expecting to be away for this long.
Opposition revenue spokesman Andrew Bayly has expressed deep concern about the couple. He says situations like theirs should never have been able to happen.
Bayly has been in touch with other couples like the Wardles. He has been dealing with a number of Kiwi pensioners trapped in Australia and one in Morocco.
"The issue of superannuitants who are stuck overseas and have been unable to get a spot in MIQ is widespread. In fact, I would imagine virtually all electorate MPs have been approached by superannuants caught in this difficult situation," Bayly said today.
Given many seniors rely on their super to pay for their living costs, it is appalling that there is such a merciless approach that many superannuitants face the prospect of having their super cut off or, in some cases, having to refund their super, he said.
"It is the Government's poor management of MIQ that has not allowed them to return to New Zealand within the six-month time frame. It is essential that this situation be clarified and made clear to those superannuants who have made genuine attempts to return to New Zealand within the prescribed timeframe. It is simply just unfair," Bayly said.