An Australian woman says her attempt to get an exemption to the New Zealand Covid-19 travel ban so she could visit her dying mother has left her feeling distraught and disrespected.
The Sydney resident applied for the exemption on humanitarian grounds on April 1, but it wasn't approved until April 16, by which time her mother had died.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said it could not comment on specifics of the woman's case without a privacy waiver, but that her application appeared to have been made on the first day of the border exemptions process being put in place and that may have contributed to the delay.
The individual did not give RNZ a privacy waiver. However, it has said that if the situation was as the woman described then "this has been a truly terrible experience for the individual and INZ apologises for that".
The woman moved to New South Wales about 40 years ago. The rest of her family remained in New Zealand.
Now an Australian citizen, she said she got word her mother was in a bad way in late March.
"I received a call from my brother to tell me that he had just gone with my father and taken my mum to her GP. The GP had confirmed that Mum had really entered into the last phase of Parkinson's and didn't have long to live."
Desperate to get to New Zealand to see her mother before she died, and support her brother and 90-year-old father, the woman applied for an exemption to the travel ban on April 1 via the Immigration New Zealand website.
Aware she would also have to go into quarantine in New Zealand, the woman was buoyed when she immediately got back an email saying that the application had been received and also noted its urgency.
The email went on to say the department was very busy, but it aimed to respond in two working days, although it could take longer.
After hearing nothing for several days, she started calling the Immigration phones on April 6 and most days thereafter.
They could tell her the application had been received and assigned a case number but did not appear to be progressing.
"That was in the days leading up to Easter and it was pretty evident that if I didn't get to New Zealand in the next few days then I wasn't going to get there in time to see my mother.
"So, Easter was pretty grim because I didn't get any response and on the Tuesday morning after Easter I got a call to say mum had passed away so the next couple of days were quite difficult."
The woman finally got an email response informing her application for an exemption to the travel ban had been approved on the Friday after Easter.
"Quite a cheery sounding email. Again the impression I'm left with is that it was a standard email. I certainly, from the email, didn't have the impression that they had looked at the information I'd already provided to them, which detailed why I was making an application."
The email said she had a month to apply for a visitor visa, which would have to be used within a month of being issued. It offered no advice on how long that visa would be valid for.
The woman believed the lack of action, and compassion, from Immigration New Zealand was appalling.
"I think it's really disrespectful. It's disrespectful to me and my family in New Zealand as they're impacted as well.
"My father's grieving. I can't be with him. It's put quite a bit of pressure on my brother who's in his bubble trying to look after his family and look after Dad.
The woman said when she spoke to her father he was trying to remain upbeat, but she was feeling guilty about not being there for him.
"He's now in a situation where he sees no one from one day to the next. He's totally alone and it just breaks my heart that I can't be there to be with him."