Update: The Thwaites have now been booked on a flight home this Sunday.
Taranaki dairy farmers Rob and Alison Thwaites are trapped in Sydney and desperate to get home for calving.
The Thwaites travelled to Sydney on June 16 to support their son Christopher, who was recovering from surgery after he broke his neck in an AFL match, Rob told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
The surgery was a "world-first" of its kind, Thwaites said.
"[He had] 3D-printed titanium vertebrae replace his damaged ones. That was our sole reason for coming here for one week."
Since then, the couple had missed out on returning to New Zealand "by one day" twice already, Thwaites said.
The process on Saturday was that Air New Zealand would contact people with flights to be brought home in order of priority, Thwaites said.
"On Sunday it changed to the 10am free-for-all".
The Thwaites had "no chance" of getting a place, because they didn't have a device "that we're paying a couple of grand to someone to beat the queue".
"We're just in no man land's here".
As the sole operators of their farm, the Thwaites didn't employ staff, and it was distressing to be away during the busy calving season.
"We've got a herd of cows that are ranked about fifth genetically in New Zealand, out of 11,000 herds. They're now in full swing calving.
"This is just our worst nightmare come true."
So far, family had pitched in to help Rob and Alison with the farm while they were stuck in Sydney, but it wasn't an easy task.
Thwaites said his brother-in-law was putting in 12-hour days overseeing the property, despite being retired and running his own drystock farm.
Meanwhile, the couple's daughter, also working 12-hour shifts, was "coming home and checking on cows in the middle of the night", he said.
The couple's son, who lived an hour away, was helping out during the weekend, while their daughter's partner was doing a nine-hour round trip to assist at the weekend as well.
The situation was taking its toll on Thwaites.
"I'm sorry I'm about to cry."
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor told The Country he had received an email from the Thwaites and had passed it to Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins.
"It is a terrible dilemma, I appreciate the pressure on the farm - things don't stop biologically just because you stay away."
However, there were "many, many Kiwis in all sorts of different situations stuck in Sydney", O'Connor said.
"It's one of those unique situations we find ourselves in with Covid and us trying to deal with it, and clearly in New South Wales it's not under control."
The protocols in New Zealand were there to make sure people didn't bring Covid-19 back from New South Wales, O'Connor said.
While these decisions weren't under his jurisdiction, O'Connor said he had advocated for the Thwaites "and their plight".
"I'm hoping that the Thwaites can get back as soon as possible in the next allocation and whether there's a prioritisation process, that is something that is managed through a different minister's office."
Mackay suggested there was no prioritisation process at all, and it seemed as though those who were quickest on their devices were more likely to be heard.
O'Connor said the issue was complicated, and there were a "multitude" of personal and professional circumstances that could be seen as "unfair" to miss out on returning to New Zealand.
"It's a challenge for us as a Government to try to ensure the system works as fairly as it can, but ultimately, unless you have case by case analysis by an individual minister - which would be ridiculous - it's really hard to ensure fair prioritisation."
Meanwhile, while he respected the Minister of Agriculture and he understood it wasn't part of his portfolio, Thwaites said he was still unhappy with O'Connor's response.
"He talked about fairness, all those sorts of things, there was absolutely no fairness. They've abandoned the priority thing. So we're just one of thousands now wanting to get home.
"I don't know where we stand".
One key point Thwaites was keen to make was that the couple wanted to pay for their MIQ accommodation.
"We do not believe it's fair for the taxpayers of New Zealand to pay for our MIQ".