Two sisters who have flown from Melbourne to be with their dying mother are asking for an exemption so they can leave quarantine early, but say the process has been unwieldy and slow.
They are due to be released from 14 days mandatory isolation on Saturday but fear their mother may die before they get to see her.
The Ministry of Health says exemptions from the requirement for all arrivals to go into "managed isolation" or quarantine are granted only under extremely limited circumstances.
One of the sisters, Joanne, said their first request for dispensation, made on April 19, the day after they arrived in the country, was turned down.
"Just the standard line of they have to protect the country and the lockdown is for the good of preventing the spread of the virus. And everyone has to do their part."
They appealed to the Ministry of Health on Friday and were supposed to hear back within 48 hours but have not yet had an answer, she said.
"These are very time-critical decisions. We're not wanting to be released so we can go on holiday to Queenstown. Time is against us."
She said there was only one family member in their mother's bubble.
"Our father died six months ago and she has been coping on her own.
"A friend of our mother's is a retired nurse, she's willing to stay with her but she's not allowed to under lockdown. Nobody's allowed to visit her except our other sister."
Joanne said they had no idea whether the process would be successful, but felt they had to try.
"We fully understand the reasons for the lockdown but in these few cases they surely can give a compassionate leave because we may never see our mother again."
The Ministry of Health acknowledged that our current border requirements can be very distressing for people returning to New Zealand a spokesperson said it had sympathy for the family's situation.
"We have consistently taken a precautionary approach to Covid-19 and our border measures are there to protect all New Zealanders from the virus," the ministry statement said.
"Exemptions are only granted under extremely limited circumstances.
"Anybody who has been on an international flight has been exposed to other travellers who may have had exposure to Covid-19, and this is one of the risks that we are trying to protect New Zealand against."