David Faulkner said New Zealand officials had told people in the group they would be exempt from Australia's travel ban over the coronavirus epidemic because of the two countries' special visa relationship, but had been told by four separate Australian officials they would not be allowed into the country.

"Yeah, it's all very well for the New Zealand government to say 'yeah, it's all cool', but they're trying to get entry into Australia, not New Zealand.

"If you go to the, for example, Australian government department of health - you know, the latest update on the issue - there's no mention that New Zealanders are also exempt from the foreign national ban."

He said the group would still try to board a flight to Australia today, reports RNZ.


The virus, which has largely infected people in China in the city of Wuhan where it originated and the wider Hubei region, is believed to have infected nearly 35,000 people, about 330 of whom were not in mainland China.

More than 700 people are confirmed to have died from the virus, all of them in mainland China except two - one in Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

At least two New Zealanders are believed to have the virus on board the Princess Diamond cruise ship, which is under quarantine off Japan after a confirmed case was discovered on board.

Authorities have been testing all the passengers - including about a dozen New Zealanders - for the virus.