An Auckland woman's attempt to apply for personal travel exemption to drive to Waihi to attend her mother's funeral has been declined for the third time.
Teresa King, 55, was told that because her application for exemption for the same reason had already been declined twice before, her new one "has not been assessed".
King's mother Ruth Anne Trepels passed away last Friday September 10, and she was stopped at the border from returning to Waihi after coming back to Auckland after spending a week with her dying mother to collect her casket.
"This is so heartless, where is the kindness. It is absolutely ludicrous," King said.
King was told in an email this morning that any further applications she submitted for this same request to travel would also not be assessed.
The Ministry had ruled that King's need for travelling "was not essential right now" according to the email. Her mother's funeral will be taking place today.
It said the criteria for the granting of personal travel exemption includes an assessment on whether the travel could be delayed or avoided, if there was risk to life, health and safety and the overall risk to public health.
"We understand this will be disappointing for you. The need to protect the wider New Zealand population from Covid-19, and especially from the new and more transmissible variants, has meant some restrictions have been put in place," the email said.
King was denied entry at the border on Sunday to return to Waihi after she came back to her Stillwater house to collect a casket made by her husband for her mother.
"When I got to the Auckland border (when coming from Waihi) I asked if I could travel back through with the items to attend my mother's funeral. I was informed by the officer it would not be a problem and he would put out a notification as well as an email," King said earlier.
"I was also informed the previous Friday from the local police that all I had to have was a letter from the funeral home and carrying a casket would be evidence enough."
The letter from Waihi Funeral Homes signed by funeral director Simon Manukonga stated that the mother, Ruth Anne Trepels, had passed away at Herthington House Rest Home in Waihi and that her funeral was on Tuesday September 14.
"I then had to make arrangements for the family to come (from Waihi) to collect the casket and artefacts," she said.
When they met at the border, she and the family members were allowed to give each other hugs and kisses as the casket and artefacts were handed over.
"How is this any different to me going to my own mother's funeral when we are able to make physical contact," King said.
King said her mother was Samoan, and arrangements had been made with the local marae in Waihi for her mother's body to be there so close family members could be with her.
With her sisters in Australia, King said she was the only daughter in New Zealand who could have attended the funeral.
"It has been an horrendous ordeal and I am so emotionally distraught from the whole saga," King said.
"On the application I informed that I had my mother's casket and artefacts. I was the only daughter in New Zealand to be able to attend the funeral and I had been promised to be allowed back over the border.
"If I had known otherwise I would have stayed in Waihi. Within my family culture it is extremely important for family to be with the body at all times."
King said she was dumbfounded how she could be allowed to spend a week in Waihi, come home for less than 48 hours and then not be allowed back.
"There is absolutely no compassion given to grieving families," she said.
"If I had known I won't be allowed to return, I would have stayed on in Waihi. It's been a huge emotional toll to be told one thing from one person then another from someone else."
A Health Ministry spokeswoman said new community cases of Covid-19 continue to emerge in Auckland, so travel within, into and out of Auckland was highly restricted.
"We appreciate this can be very distressing for some people, including those wanting to attend funerals/tangihanga, but the highly transmissible Delta variant means strong precautions are necessary," she said.
"We are taking a very cautious approach to applications for personal travel exemptions to travel across or within the alert level boundaries"
Just 170 exemption applications have been approved out of nearly 3900 requests received to date.
"Exemptions are only granted in the most exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis, and only where this is consistent with the public health response to Covid-19," she said.
"Boundary controls have served us well and remain crucial to minimising further spread of Covid-19. They reflect the highly transmissible nature of the Delta variant, and are designed to minimise the spread of the virus to other parts of New Zealand – ultimately to keep the whole country safe."