A Hamilton woman stranded in Australia because of an immigration bungle has made it back to New Zealand after the Herald made inquiries into her situation.

"I'm so relieved to be home," Tess Johnson said this morning. "It was such a hectic time."

Johnson was desperate to get back to her parents and siblings but had been prevented from boarding a flight at Sydney Airport because she was travelling on an Australian passport.

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The 26-year-old teacher, who moved to New Zealand when she was 12, made a last minute dash from London on Monday morning where she has been on her overseas experience for the past four years, because of the coronavirus.

Johnson wanted to be with her family during the Covid-19 pandemic, and half way through her return New Zealand moved to alert level 3.

By the time she got to Sydney officials wouldn't let her complete the journey because she did not have a New Zealand passport.

But Johnson, who grew up in New Zealand and trained at the University of Waikato, said she had no connection to Australia and no support networks other than one cousin who was putting her up in Wollongong, south of Sydney.

After the Herald and Hamilton East MP David Bennett made inquiries with Immigration New Zealand, Johnson was approved for travel.

After more questions at a "deserted" Sydney Airport she finally boarded an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland at 7.15pm.

"My cousin didn't come. It was a very emotional goodbye. We were both crying of happiness and sadness at the same time."

On the plane passengers were stopped from sitting in the middle seats.


By the time she arrived at Auckland Airport New Zealand was at alert level 4 and in full lockdown.

Johnson was temporarily quarantined, had her temperature checked and was given strict instructions on self-isolating.

Her parents had driven a car to the airport for her, stocked with food and Johnson return to Hamilton in the wee hours.

"My mum was waiting up eagerly for me all night. I did tell her to sleep but I don't think she did."

Johnson is now living in an outside cabin with a fully-stocked fridge.

"I've just gloves if I need to go to the bathroom or something. They are keeping 2m distance.

"We've got a little outdoor area we can keep our distance in but I'm just talking through windows and things like that at the moment."

National MP Bennett said he was pleased to hear Johnson was home.

"Thanks to Immigration New Zealand and Australia who both worked together to make that happen.

"They realised that these are very trying times and that they need to have a lot of discretion.

"It does still leave the big gap that we've got though where we've got people in an overseas country and they just won't get out of there.

"If you are further afield the message from the Government is just to hunker down. That's going to be very difficult for a lot of people in some remote places.

"I think that's an issue that will grow over the next few weeks as one, the people find they can't hunker down in those places because they don't have the strict controls we've got here and two, they might run out of money or resources or options.

Immigration New Zealand did not respond to questions.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website