Up to 100,000 foreign nationals could be getting ready to leave New Zealand to go home,
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says.
Yesterday, he unveiled the Government's managed departure plan to allow a "safe and ordered exit" of foreign nationals stranded in this country.
In a statement, Peters said the plan would benefit tens of thousands of foreigners.
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But speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Peters revealed that number could actually be closer to 100,000 people.
He said that 35,000 foreign nationals have registered as being in New Zealand on their countries' equivalent of Safe Travel – a website which keeps track of Kiwis around the world.
But Peters said that number was probably much higher.
"A significant number of their foreign nationals, like our New Zealanders, have not registered on it but nevertheless want to come home."
In fact, he said the number of foreign visitors in New Zealand could be as high as 225,000.
But many of those may not want to return home, he said.
Some would be saying: "I feel safer [in New Zealand] I'm staying put," he said.
Many of those getting ready to go back home are from Germany.
Peters revealed this morning that the German Government had hired 35 Air New Zealand flights to bring their people home.
"It's starting possibly today," Peters told ZB.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) was working on a plan to get as many New Zealanders trapped overseas as possible on those charter flights headed to New Zealand as well.
As well as returning New Zealanders, he said he was also in talks with various governments to get medical supplies on those planes.
Peters told RNZ he was in contact with various government ministers around the world about getting Kiwis home.
He spoke to Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, this morning and has been in a recent conversation with his Danish and Chilean counterparts.
But he was relatively critical of Kiwis still overseas.
Peters said he issued a press release some weeks ago which made it clear that "you've got to start coming home; the options are going to close down on you real fast".
He said he did that in an effort to get as many Kiwis overseas home, as fast as he could.
Asked about a timeframe of getting New Zealanders trapped overseas back home, he said: "As fast as we possibly, safely can".