A Kiwi teacher is stranded in Australia after immigration officials refused to let her board a flight from Sydney to Auckland because she holds an Australian passport.

But Tess Johnson has lived in New Zealand since she was 12. She holds a New Zealand driver licence, has KiwiSaver, a student loan, bank accounts and, most importantly, her parents, siblings and friends live here.

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Johnson, of Hamilton, made a last-minute dash on Monday morning to return to New Zealand from London where she has been working as a teacher for the past four years.

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The 26-year-old, who was in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year, sent documentation to Immigration New Zealand, supporting her claim as a permanent New Zealand resident.

Before landing in Abu Dhabi Johnson and her two travelling companions, a cousin and friend, were told New Zealand had lifted its alert level to 3.

Tess Johnson grew up and went to university in Hamilton but can't get back to New Zealand because she has lived in the UK for four years on her Australian passport. Photo / Supplied
Tess Johnson grew up and went to university in Hamilton but can't get back to New Zealand because she has lived in the UK for four years on her Australian passport. Photo / Supplied

They continued their journey but when Johnson tried to board the flight from Sydney she was detained.

"My friend got let on the plane, and I got left at the gate. I had to push her through saying 'Just go home, the best thing for you is to be home and I will find a way'.

"We were crying, it was just horrible. It was the worst experience. My parents are really concerned - Mum cried all day yesterday.

"They [immigration officials] were really harsh to me. They told me they could see no valid reason to let me back into New Zealand until this is sorted."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's website states that Australian citizens and permanent residents may still enter New Zealand under the Covid-19 lockdown.

"They're saying because I've been in the UK for four years that my New Zealand residency is blocked."

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Johnson claimed immigration officials were now blocking her attempts to clarify the situation, telling her a decision had been made on the case.

She did not consider Australia her home and had no ties to the country. She only had one cousin there to support her and was in self-isolation with her at present.

Johnson said she and her flatmates decided to leave the United Kingdom when schools closed on Friday.

"I was feeling unsafe in the UK, mainly because of everything that was happening and I just wanted to be home with family."

Johnson's father wrote to Hamilton East MP David Bennett who told the Herald he believed Johnson should be allowed to return home.

Teacher Tess Johnson is desperate to get back to New Zealand from the UK but her Australian passport has stranded her in Sydney. Photo / Supplied
Teacher Tess Johnson is desperate to get back to New Zealand from the UK but her Australian passport has stranded her in Sydney. Photo / Supplied

"We're in contact with Immigration NZ to see how we can resolve that. The hard and fast rule was that New Zealand citizens would be welcome back.

"The question then becomes around permanent residents, people who have made New Zealand their home but haven't got citizenship.

"We thought that the rule would also apply to them. Her whole family is here, she's grown up here so she should be let in."

The Herald has sent questions to Immigration NZ.

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