COVID-19: Urgent plea for New Zealand to shelter yachties trapped in Pacific as cyclone season looms

There's an urgent plea for New Zealand to give shelter to yachties trapped in the Pacific - as cyclone season looms. 

Fiji and French Polynesia are harbouring more than 300 small yachts stuck in COVID-19 limbo.

One of those stranded, Guy Chester, told The AM Show they would normally move out of the cyclone zone by early November.

"What's happened with all the border closures is we're not able to escape the cyclone zone - there just aren't the facilities in these islands to put all the boats, safely.

"We're really worried. We thought the New Zealand Government was setting up an exemption process and we were told that by letter in June, and then just recently the exemption form came out for a humanitarian exemption and it says, quite clearly, they won't accept cyclone refugees as a compelling reason - we're quite distraught.

"These are not superyachts - we're talking about families with young kids."

They believed there would be a compassionate solution for them, Chester said.

"We're putting out an appeal to New Zealanders - to Kiwis and to your Government - to please be compassionate. Please understand that this puts people's lives in danger.

"We've got an isolation protocol so when the boats first leave - they will be in isolation, in quarantine. We're willing to take COVID tests before we leave if that's available in the departure ports."

Ocean Cruising Club spokesperson Fiona Jones told Newshub the yachties have until November before the Pacific's weather worsens.

She said it will take most boaties two weeks to travel to New Zealand and they are willing to self-isolate on arrival.

There are few excuses to shut them out, she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had to make sure it was being consistent with the border.

"What we didn't want to create was a situation where you can't come in by plane but you can, perhaps, come in by boat," she told The AM Show.

"That's one of the issues that's been at play, however - it is cyclone season and we do need to make sure we're balancing that principled approach with also making sure that we have health and safety in mind for those who might be in our region.

"I am going to work through with the Minister and Ministry of Health just how we can accommodate those two competing issues at the moment because I do not want to see people's health and safety compromised.

"We need to take a look at these particular seasonal circumstances."