A Kiwi woman living in Australia says a "flawed" MIQ booking system has dragged her through "utter hell" as she tries to get home to hold a memorial for her mum who died earlier this year.
Parisa Rezaei says she became "stuck in a hole" when she was asked to provide evidence from a funeral director when she had no intention of using one.
After "more than 100 emails" and hours on the phone, she's confirmed quarantine plans for February, but wants processes to be reviewed so others aren't caught up in the same way.
The 31-year-old moved to Sydney four years ago but was forced to make a heart-wrenching decision in mid-March to stay in her new homeland as rumours swirled that both country's borders would shut to control rising cases of COVID-19.
As her mum Catherine battled cancer at home in Wanaka, her condition deteriorated within a week of international travel being ceased and she passed away on March 27.
"It was heartbreaking and I felt helpless. I couldn't even be there, and then 7 months later, MIQ brought all that grief back front and centre."
New Zealand was two days into alert level 4, diminishing any chance of a proper send-off for Catherine.
Her family and friends decided they would wait for Parisa, Catherine's only child, to return home before they would hold a memorial and scatter her ashes.
When NSW lifted the mandatory quarantine for travellers from New Zealand, Parisa began looking at options to travel home so the family could officially say goodbye.
"Fourteen days isolation is much more reasonable than 28," she told Newshub.
MIQ guidelines state managed isolation charges could be waived in difficult and distressing situations.
Believing she qualified, on October 22 - six days after one way travel opened between New Zealand and Australia - she wrote to MIQ enquiring about the possibility of the mandatory $3100 fee being waived under compassionate grounds.
As Parisa Rezaei was holding a memorial, and not a funeral, she was unable to provide correspondence from a funeral director and tried to get hold of a person to talk to.
"I couldn't give the last piece of evidence they needed. We don't plan to have a funeral director as my mother has been cremated. We are not religious and don't really want to engage a funeral director."
As she waited for someone to get in touch with her, she frequently sent emails and made phone calls begging for an update.
"I needed to know if I would be approved before organising a funeral because of not financially being able to pay for both," she says.
She says it was the start of an emotional process, struggling to get MIQ to respond and realising the website was lagging with updated information.
"When you book your spot you need to put in your flight details but the MIQ site is broken and Air NZ flights are not synced with their site so it is literally not possible to book a room," she told Newshub.
The Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS) is reliant on airlines providing MIQ with confirmed information around their flight schedules but due to the international upheaval to air travel, flight data can be changeable. MIQ however requires confirmed flight schedules to be able to link allocated vouchers with flights arriving in New Zealand.
On Friday, November 13, she was given confirmation that her situation fits within compassionate grounds and was approved for an exemption, but hopes MIQ takes the frustration she experienced seriously to ensure smoother processes for others.
Parisa says she'd like to see better communication from MIQ representatives after sending countless emails over three weeks trying to get someone to look more closely at her case, conscious that the availability was dropping quickly.
"It was absolute utter hell," she said.
"When you're grieving, you go through all the emotions of sadness, frustration, anger, it's been nearly eight months after, and I had finally found myself at a somewhat bearable place - I was still crying every day, but I'm okay, but the utter frustration of not being able to get approval, being put in circles of you've got to do this, you've got to do that, and hours and hours of calls, all the emails and being continuously told no one can help me - this honestly brought up so much emotion that didn't need to be brought up."
A Managed Isolation and Quarantine spokesperson said they were sorry for Parisa's experience.
"Although Parisa was successful in securing a waiver from payment, we’d like to apologise for the delay and distress that she has experienced.
"Our aim is to provide responses to these applications as soon as possible."
The representative said currently there is an extremely high volume of enquiries and the MIQ team are working their way through applications in the lead up to the New Zealand summer holidays.
"These are often very stressful circumstances for not only the person wanting to come home, but also our staff. To help mitigate this and be able to provide faster responses to applicants, like Parisa, MIQ has brought in additional staff and are currently recruiting for further roles."
"With the addition of the new MIQ staff and case management system, we believe future applicants will have a reduced waiting time.
"We acknowledge that there are many people in heartbreaking situations as a result of this global pandemic and we certainly look to improve the waiting time for applicants awaiting confirmation of their waivers."