New Zealanders stranded in New South Wales anxiously awaiting mercy flights

People coming from Australia will not have to pay for their 14-day isolation.
People coming from Australia will not have to pay for their 14-day isolation. Photo credit: Getty Images

Kate Gregan for RNZ
Stranded New Zealanders in New South Wales are waiting to hear just how high - or how low - they will be placed on the priority list for mercy flights.

Managed return flights will start bringing people home on Tuesday before travellers head into an MIQ facility for 14 days, but the number of people who can return is limited by the number of rooms available.

There are as many as 2500 New Zealanders in NSW hoping to be on one of the first flights out, but there are only about 1000 rooms available over the next two weeks.

The government has said people with existing return bookings who have been waiting the longest will be prioritised, but some returnees hope the government will takes other factors into account.

Carol Taupau is 26 weeks pregnant and flew to Sydney at the end of last month for her Aunt's funeral.

She is now stranded and desperate to be reunited with her partner and her two young children.

"It's kind of hard being here, stuck here while I have two kids waiting for me at home. I feel for my partner, it's not easy looking after two kids," she said.

She said she had already missed some appointments with her midwife, and it was difficult being away from her job.

"I can't work from home. I've used up most of my leave just to help me get through," she said.

With limited MIQ spots available, the government is urging travellers who can safely stay in New South Wales to be patient and is encouraging them to allow those in most urgent need to book first.

Unlike returning travellers from other countries, people coming from Australia will not have to pay for their 14-day isolation.

Taupau said that was a relief but added it was upsetting to read comments from some people on social media who argue taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill.

"We are also taxpayers and hearing people on Facebook who say we should be paying, it's kind of hurts me. They don't think about the people who are stranded," she said.

Another New Zealander stuck in NSW, Sue Green, said she travelled to Australia to see her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren for the first time in two years.

Green said she had already changed her return flight five times, and it was incredibly stressful not knowing when she would get home or return to her job.

"I can do some work remotely, but my job at home is in jeopardy. The longer I'm away, the higher the chance is that I could lose my work," she said.

Green, who is considered high risk, said she would not mind paying for her MIQ stay.

"I'd gladly pay if it meant getting home and getting a step closer to being in New Zealand. It's really unsafe here," she said.

On Sunday Sydney recorded 77 new cases of Covid-19 and one death.