A New Zealander living in Australia who had just learnt his father was terminally ill sought advice from the consulate about getting home only to be told they were not accepting visitors.
But just two weeks later the same office held a large event - complete with marquees and caterers - to celebrate Waitangi Day.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the High Commission in Canberra is still providing consular services to New Zealanders during Covid-19 but for efficiency reasons it prefers to do it remotely.
The National Party has criticised the response, saying Kiwis in need overseas should have access to taxpayer-funded embassies and High Commissions.
Sam England, 34, and his partner James Flick, 32, drove to the NZ Embassy in Canberra on Monday, January 18 after receiving the crushing news the night before that England's dad was suffering from renal failure and may only have days or weeks to live.
Desperate to get home to see his dad but not knowing where to start, Flick suggested they go to the High Commission the next morning.
England's passport had expired and he also needed to apply for a special spot in a managed isolation quarantine facility rather than waiting months for one to become available.
The couple arrived at the High Commission on Monday morning and had to speak through the intercom. Although it was office hours - they were told the High Commission was not accepting visitors.
Flick then explained England's predicament and that they were not visitors but that England was a New Zealand citizen and needed information on how to get home.
However, England was still denied entry due to the no visitor policy and given the hotline phone number for MIQ, Flick said.
"We just felt there wasn't enough central support or oversight for someone who didn't know about the process.
"I thought it was really bizarre to be refused entry to an embassy."
They then tried the MIQ number but it either didn't connect or kept ringing out until that evening.
By that stage England had managed to arrange a new passport and eventually got an emergency isolation spot. He completed his stay in managed isolation at the Holiday Inn in Auckland at the weekend and is now with his dad.
But Flick - who stayed in Australia - said they were still flabbergasted the High Commission was not helping New Zealanders get home or letting them in their doors.
"I guess being sent away from the embassy was a bit of a surprise. The embassy staff - they live in our community anyway."
He said it shocked him even more when he passed the High Commission on his way to work last week and saw it was hosting a large scale event attended by NZ High Commissioner Annette King.
In her speech she said the event included "Australian friends and diplomatic colleagues" to mark Waitangi Day.
Flick said it was disappointing the High Commission wouldn't let New Zealand citizens desperately needing help through its doors, but was happy to throw a Waitangi Day party with no apparent physical distancing in place.
"They have one standard for helping people and one standard for special events. We thought - hmm that's a bit rude."
However, an MFAT spokesperson said being denied entry had nothing to do with Covid-19. Even before the pandemic the vast majority of assistance provided was over the phone or via email or social media for efficiency.
"The New Zealand High Commission in Canberra continues to provide consular services to New Zealanders during Covid-19, following Australian health measures.
Only "on occasion" did it manage in-person enquiries, the spokesperson said.
"We understand the many challenges presented by global Covid-19 measures. New Zealanders in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the nearest New Zealand representation, to register on SafeTravel to receive important updates, and to keep up-to-date with NZ border and health measures on the New Zealand Government's Covid-19 website."
It had not received any complaints from New Zealanders who had struggled to reach the High Commission in Australia, the spokesperson said.
National spokesman for foreign affairs Gerry Brownlee said the situation was disappointing. Consulates came at a considerable expense so New Zealanders could have access to embassies and High Commissions anywhere around the world.
"I'm disappointed to hear MFAT have become so remote from the people that they are there to serve that they have this distance approach especially during Covid-19," he said.
"It wouldn't have hurt for them to be a little bit more open and communicative. One of the things I very much object to with all government departments is the anonymity of the phone services you get when you try and contact them and if MFAT have gone down that track with people living offshore who have the right to services then that's extremely disappointing."