A grief-stricken whānau are pleading with officials for an exemption to take the body of their 11-year-old daughter through Auckland to her tangi in Northland.

Tangiwai Wilson died suddenly at her home in Hamilton early on Tuesday morning.

But for now the family's main priority is getting Tangiwai home to her Ngāti Ruamahue hapū at Wainui, near Kaeo in the Far North, for her tangi.

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It comes as director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Wednesday's Covid-19 media briefing that exemptions would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Her aunt Ihapera Holden, said the whānau had been due to head north at 1pm today, however no exemption had been granted to travel through Auckland, which is currently under alert level 3 restrictions.

"We can't get the exemption. The night of the incident I did speak with the [Hamilton Police] Sergeant and they did advise that we should be able to get it."

Hamilton funeral home Simplicity Bereavement Services Waikato had been working to secure an exemption since soon after the death, to no avail.

Owner Carla Vaetoe applied to the Ministry of Health on Tuesday morning for an exemption but had not heard back by late Wednesday despite resending the application today, this time through a police liaison officer.

Holden said they needed the exemption to go through police checkpoints, set up last week when Auckland went into lockdown after an outbreak of the virus.

The restrictions extend to Pukekohe in the south and Wellsford in the north.

"They've been asking us if we are going to stop and we've told them 'No we're not'. We're travelling straight up to where we're going to lay her body."


Holden said the whānau had considered cremating Tangiwai but it was tradition for loved ones to be buried at the marae.

"We've always buried our people. We're quite happy for the police to escort us through Auckland so they know we're not going to stop.

"Basically we just want ... New Zealand to help us get our baby home. That's all we want is to get my niece home so we can bury her."

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The Ministry of Health has said advice for those seeking exemptions, the process, and what information was needed to consider a request, would be on its website.

"Travel into or out of regions at alert level 3 is not permitted unless some quite specific conditions are met, and an exemption is granted.

"We are aware that there are a number of people who have lost loved ones who are applying to attend a funeral or tangihanga that requires movement either into or out of the Auckland region.


"We recognise this will be challenging for families in mourning, however this is the best way to keep our communities safe and contain the spread of Covid-19."

A Givealittle page, entitled 'tragic and preventable' has been set up by Simplicity to raise money for the cost of the tangi. So far it had generated more than $5600.

Tangiwai, named after her great-grandmother and grandmother, was raised in Hamilton but the family including her mother Chante Wilson hail from Wainui.

Holden described her niece, whose nickname was "Doddy", as an old soul who cared about others.

"She had quite a lot of friends and she used to volunteer at the secondhand shop down at the mall in Glenview. She used to visit old people around the neighbourhood."

The young girl was living with her grandmother when she died.


"She got brought up with her Nan so she was always around the old people, making them smile."

Tangiwai often went to food trucks where she collected bread and then delivered it to those in need, Holden said.

"She was excited as to give $1.50 to a homeless man who was sitting outside the shops."

Despite her "old soul", Tangiwai was still a child, Holden said. "She was a little bit cheeky. But she was actually a really good girl."

Holden said Tangiwai loved dancing and attended a hip hop class. The young girl would have turned 12 on October 4.

She said whānau were not yet ready to speak about what led to Tangiwai's death.


The Givealittle page said Tangiwai was "an incredible, happy-go-lucky-girl - who had her whole life ahead of her".

Melville Intermediate School principal David Cooke said in a statement he was notified before school on Tuesday morning that a pupil had died.

"We have advised our students and parents and caregivers of this and that we are continuing to work with appropriate agencies to support our students.

"I can confirm that I have met with the whānau to pay our respects and to pass on the aroha of our school community.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the whānau. Out of respect for them we will be making no further statements at this stage."

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the Ministry's traumatic incident team was at the school on Tuesday, and would be available as long as was needed.


Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.