Whanganui locals around the world will soon have the chance to fly home and catch the end of summer.
On Wednesday the Government announced a three-step approach to loosening border restrictions, starting on January 16, 2022.
Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers can travel from Australia without needing to go through MIQ.
Instead, they can isolate at home for seven days.
Jamie Ballantyne usually commutes between New Zealand and Australia for work, but he has been grounded in Whanganui for the past six months.
"It was supposed to just be a quick three-week break," he said.
Ballantyne had previously managed to book MIQ spots for one trip across the ditch, but all other attempts proved futile.
"The whole system was a farce, there will be a lot of people out there that are happy to see it go," Ballantyne said.
"People say it's a lottery in human misery and I completely agree.
"I'd even say it's a national disgrace. The whole thing felt 'un-Kiwi', it wasn't us. I really feel for those people who are a long way from home."
He will be returning to work as a heavy machine operator in a mine near Moranbah in Queensland in mid-January.
Ballantyne questioned the need for a seven-day isolation period, but said the Government's announcement was at least a step in the right direction.
"If we're vaccinated, have a pre-departure PCR test, a rapid antigen test day of departure and a PCR test once we arrive why do we need to still isolate for a week?
"I hope they continue to tweak the process using common sense over the coming months."
On February 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers can travel to New Zealand from all other countries.
That's great news for Berlin resident, Brodie White, who tried in vain to book an MIQ spot earlier in the year.
It's been five years since he visited his hometown of Whanganui.
"I was really trying to get home in time for Christmas," White said.
The MIQ process was incredibly frustrating, he said.
"Having expectant family members at the other end of the line asking if I'd got a spot was pretty rough. It was disappointing, not only for me but for them."
White, currently a guitarist/bassist in two Berlin-based bands, said he even downloaded codes to help secure a spot, also to no avail.
"I signed up for the lobby system a couple of times too, but the best I ever got was 18,000th in the line, to be one of 3000.
"If that's not banging your head against a 13-inch computer monitor, I don't know what is."
The Government's announcement had brought a sense of relief and optimism, White said.
He is planning on booking flights as soon as he is allowed, although his girlfriend, who is not a New Zealand resident or citizen, will have to wait until April to be allowed into the country.
"I can finally get home and see all of these people," White said.
"I've got a niece that I've never met."
Melissa Butters is currently based in Northern Rivers, New South Wales, and managed to visit Whanganui just before the bubble with Australia ended in July.
Having "the door slammed" resulted in multiple rebooked flights, and the stress of that experience meant she welcomed the easing of travel restrictions next year.
"Travelling is stressful enough as it is, and I'm pretty sure I was on the last flight into New Zealand," Butters said.
"My family at the other end wasn't sure if I would even get through Customs."
Like White, her partner is not a New Zealander, so he won't be able to visit New Zealand for another five months.
From April 30, 2022, all fully vaccinated individuals can travel to New Zealand.
However, all people travelling under the new border system will be required to have a negative pre-departure test, proof of full vaccination status, a declaration confirming they have not been to high-risk countries, seven days in self-isolation and a final negative test before entering the community.
"We'll definitely be coming when we're both allowed in, Uri [her partner] hasn't been over here in quite a few years.
"It's been a difficult time, learning to adjust to the sad reality you can't just come home and be there for those significant moments.
"There's been some weird and wonky times."
Ballantyne said it would be interesting to see how the Government handled the "peanuts" who flouted the rules around self-isolation on arrival.
"That will be the true test, how they respond to that minority.
"Hopefully they allow common sense to prevail where they can. People should be given the benefit of the doubt that they're going to follow the rules.
"Let's get on with things."