COVID-19: Kiwi expats fear 'backlash' for returning home over high quarantine costs

The vitriol and abuse targeting expat Kiwis over quarantine costs is making many fear the reception they'll get if they need to come home from overseas.

It's particularly distressing for those trying to get back to see critically-ill family members, such as Sharon Brown whose mother in New Zealand is sick.

Brown is Scotland-born and New Zealand-raised, and now lives in Winchester, UK. Her parents live in Orewa, north of Auckland.

She received a message last week saying her mum was very ill.

"I've managed to get myself on a flight in a couple of weeks, which is the best I could do. Then a couple of weeks isolation, then hopefully I'll be able to see my mum," she says.

It's costing her nearly $5000. Her flights have been rebooked and cancelled numerous times and she hopes she doesn't get there too late.

"I don't want to not see her again."

If the stress, worry and financial burden wasn't bad enough, adding to her worry is the torrent of anti-expat commentary about how much the quarantine programme is costing.

"I don't want to feel unwelcome. I always feel incredibly welcome when I go back home. And I don't want to have to tell people that I've just arrived because I'm scared of what backlash I might get," she says.

"I just hate the way it's been whipped up. I don't think it's the natural default of Kiwis to be like this."

The cost of quarantining 27,000 Kiwis who've returned so far is $81 million.

Both the National Party and New Zealand First want returning Kiwis to pay $3000 each for their quarantine, and the Government is considering it.

"Questions around the cost of quarantine and whether individuals should pay we put as a secondary issue. It is something that we're working through now but we haven't predetermined the outcome of that," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Brown says there appears to be "antagonism" around Kiwis returning home.

"People aren't coming back for fun, they're coming back because they have little choice. It's not an easy thing to do."

The weeks ahead won't be easy for Brown, who's hoping for kindness, compassion and a big hug from her mum in Orewa.