A group of stranded backpackers stuck living in a council car park when New Zealand went into lockdown have been taken in by a small Waikato town, the residents of which found them somewhere to stay and have been delivering food parcels.

The seven strangers were all parked up in Ngātea's freedom camping area behind the Hauraki District Council's office on the eve of the lockdown when they were advised by local policeman advised that they could not leave the area for a month.

The group of Germans had been living in basic and cramped campervans without power for a week when a local resident found out about their predicament and put a shout out on Ngātea's community Facebook page asking for help.

German tourists (from left to right) Cosima Bredow, Anton Hecht, Laurin Oefele, Jonas Groll, Hannah Vogelei and Xenia Unruh enjoying a chicken dinner cooked for them by a Ngātea resident.
German tourists (from left to right) Cosima Bredow, Anton Hecht, Laurin Oefele, Jonas Groll, Hannah Vogelei and Xenia Unruh enjoying a chicken dinner cooked for them by a Ngātea resident.

Suddenly they were inundated by offers and the Ngātea Rugby and Sports Club opened its doors to them to give them a place to sleep and cook meals.


Ruslan Dittmann, 23, had been on a working holiday and said the group had been overwhelmed by the community's generosity.

He said it had been such a help being able to stay in the club rooms and the community had been so supportive, always asking how they could help them and bringing them food.

They had been told to write a list of anything else they needed - but they declined because the community had already provided so much.

Ngātea police station is across the road from the clubrooms so the local officer let them sit in the courtyard and use the Wi-Fi so they could keep in touch with their families overseas. He also let the travellers use his washing machine.

While other residents dropped off hot dinners, cakes, slices, apples and even beer.

Board games, balls and books were also provided to keep them entertained while they waited for their government to arrange flights for them back to Germany.

Four of the group - two women and a couple - left Sunday. Jonas Groll and Laurin Oefele, who have been here on a six-week holiday, are due to fly out on Tuesday. Dittmann was the only one still waiting to be contacted about a flight out but he expected it would happen within the next few weeks.

Groll said one of the highlights was when they got to try some stewed feijoas - because it was something they had never tasted before.


Another was being delivered a cooked chicken dinner.

While two of the girls had only recently arrived so had not had a chance to see New Zealand, the three remaining men were grateful they had already travelled the country before everyone was told to self-isolate.

In a message on the local Ngātea Facebook page, one of the tourists, Hannah Vogelei, thanked the community for their generosity, kindness and incredible food.

She said they were happy to be in Ngātea and thanked the community for looking after them.

"Also a big thank you from our families overseas, who don't have to worry too much anymore. Your food is incredible, so are the games, books, showers and of course the club house," she wrote.

Ngātea Rugby Club secretary Roz Lesch said it was great how the community had rallied together to help make the tourists comfortable until they could return home.

She said Bruce Hayward had unlocked the showers at the hockey pavilion and when she approached her committee about letting them stay in the rugby club rooms they all immediately agreed it would be a safe and more secure option.

There were also cooking facilities, a fridge and a toilet they could use.

"It was quite neat. They were so thankful. One of them was like 'this is amazing, I can stand up inside for the first time in ages'."

She said most of the community were parents and were pleased they were able to help.

"If your babies were stuck on the other side of the world you would hope that someone would have the kindness to do something for them."

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