Tasman bubble: Retirement village residents finally reunited with Australia-based families

Frank Varney, Betty Robertson and Leo.
Frank Varney, Betty Robertson and Leo.

The travel bubble with Australia is seen by some as something that's nice to have, but for others it has opened up more than just a flight route - it has made long-awaited family reunions a reality. 

For 83-year-old Betty Robertson, a resident at Metlifecare Edgewater Village, it means she will get to see her young grandson in the flesh rather than just video calling.

It's been over a year since Betty saw her daughter Karen and grandson, Leo.

"I worry that Leo won't recognise me without a sheet of glass in front of my face like on video chat," Betty joked as she spoke about a possible reunion with her three-year-old grandson.

"He was born December 2017. They came here when he was about six months old, he was just a small baby. Then they came back again in December for Christmas, but I haven't seen them since when they went back to Australia in early 2020."

While residents of the village are close and gave each other support through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, the recent loss of a close friend has reminded Betty of how precious time can be.

Betty and Leo
Betty and Leo

"Karen said if the bubble is open, she'll come in June because it will be her 50th birthday, and she would like to spend that with her mum," she said.

Although she hates having to wait for the right time, she understands why the strict rules are needed and were put in place.

"I think Jacinda Ardern has done extremely well. Just the possibility of a travel bubble is a testament to how New Zealand has handled the pandemic," she said.

Frank Varney
Frank Varney

Frank Varney is a resident at Metlifecare Longford Park. He has ruled out the possibility of visiting his granddaughter, Ashley in Australia. At 86 and in need of an oxygen machine, Frank says a travel bubble meant he got to see Ashley again when she visited him during the first few days of the bubble.

"I got to see Ashley on April 24, I knew there'd be tears and there was, tears of joy," Frank said.

"Ashley recently achieved something quite special in her career," Frank shared proudly, but without giving details, saying it was her news to share.

"To be able to see her and talk to her about that, well that made all the waiting worth it."