Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March explains 'serious personal family matter' behind travel to Mexico

Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March has explained why he needed to travel to his home country of Mexico and how he was able to get a spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Menéndez March is in the last few days of his mandatory two-weeks in isolation after he arrived back in New Zealand on February 1. He was in Mexico for what was initially described as a "serious personal family matter".

His decision to leave New Zealand goes against the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which encourages Kiwis to not travel overseas at all, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Green Party spokesperson said earlier on Wednesday that Menéndez March "followed the appropriate processes" to return to New Zealand and the party "looks forward to seeing him" upon his return.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Menéndez March said returning to Mexico "was not an easy decision" and he described his "difficult decision to return home".

"Before becoming a Member of Parliament last year, due to the ill health of my father and step-mum, I had booked an urgent flight home to go and care for my parents," he wrote.

"My step-mum has had a breast cancer diagnosis that she has been battling for several years, she recently had an aggressive relapse and has been given between six to twelve months to live. For several years since my biological mum's passing, she has been a core part of my nuclear family.

"During the pandemic my dad had undergone major surgery (with long-lasting effects), and the person who had cared for them had become extremely ill herself and was unable to care for them."

He added the pandemic itself had taken a toll on their health and finances.

When he became an MP in October last year, his new role meant delaying the trip to see and care for his family, he wrote.

"During this period of October and November, my long-term partner based in Mexico took up the role of caring for both my parents," Menéndez March said.

"With the summer break approaching, I sought advice from both party co-leader Marama Davidson and our musterer (whip) Jan Logie on returning to my homeland to care for my parents. I received their blessing and booked a flight for December 13."

Meanwhile, since June last year, Menéndez March said his partner has been trying to secure a visa so he can live and work in New Zealand with him. He was granted an invitation to apply for a visa on December 3 and was given a six-month visitor visa on January 11.

Menéndez March said his process to return to New Zealand was difficult.

"I applied for the emergency allocation through the relevant department (MBIE). Whilst applying, MBIE asked for proof of my need to return to work," he said.

"My musterer Jan Logie provided a short letter to them that it was important I return to work for Parliamentary duties. The head of MBIE also called my co-leader James Shaw to ask if it was important I be prioritised. During this phone conversation, James rightfully made it clear that I should not receive special treatment and should be assessed normally alongside everyone else." 

But he "understood and accepted" he didn't meet the criteria for emergency allocation, so started continually checking the MIQ website to apply for a voucher in a facility.

Ricardo Menéndez March.
Ricardo Menéndez March. Photo credit: The AM Show

He said he secured a spot for February 1, and both he and his partner were able to return to New Zealand and go into managed isolation. He added they will both self-isolate at home in Auckland for an additional five days after their isolation period finishes as a precautionary measure.

He finished his Facebook post acknowledging his "immense privilege" in being able to return to New Zealand.

"I understand that many New Zealanders do not have the resources or the available leave from work to go and visit their very sick and dying parents. I understand the collective loss in that and I acknowledge that the difficult decision I made to return to Tijuana was also one grounded in good fortune," he said.

"I look forward to returning to Parliament to support my colleagues in their mission for a fairer Aotearoa after a challenging period for my family. I'd like to once again thank everyone for their kindness and compassion during this time. I would also like to thank my incredible partner who has cared for my immediate family during the pandemic.

"The last six weeks have taken a significant toll on me and my family so, with the support of loved ones and of course my colleagues, I will continue to focus on my family."

He said he will return to Parliament the week after next and looks forward to "getting stuck back into work".