COVID-19: Kiwi traveller says he was denied entry from Australia because pre-departure test was a minute early

A Kiwi denied entry to New Zealand because his pre-departure COVID-19 test was taken a minute early of the required 48 hours says the logistical issues trying to return to the country from overseas have put him off travelling again in the near future.

As the world has again opened up to international travel, New Zealand is proving tricky. Travellers wanting to come here have to undertake a COVID-19 test 48 hours before departure and complete a traveller declaration form, among other things.

But many have come up against several technical issues. Newshub on Sunday revealed several stories from people who found the process far from simple; from struggles filling out forms, to spending hours trying to grasp the rules and misunderstandings over what was required to re-enter New Zealand. 

Paul Beswick, who's about to return to New Zealand after travelling to Australia for work, said he booked a PCR COVID-19 test 48 hours before his flight back from Sydney - as is required.

But Beswick told AM the nurse who took his swab wrote down the test as being taken one minute early of the required 48-hour period.

Having not noticed the minor discrepancy in the documentation, Beswick lodged his negative test with New Zealand Customs - his declaration was subsequently rejected.

To make matters worse, Beswick believed it was simply a watch error that prevented his declaration from being rejected. He said a colleague who had a test taken at the exact same time, with a different nurse, had their declaration approved.

"It appears that the nurse's watch was a tad slower than my work colleague's," Beswick told AM host Ryan Bridge.

"At first, I couldn't work out what was going on. It wasn't until I had actually noticed on the test that it had come in at 12:29pm - one minute before the 48-hour cut off."

Beswick said he was taken aback by the rejection.

"I opted to give [Customs] a call and have a chat with them and work out exactly what we could do - surely one minute is not going to make a huge difference?"

CHRISTCHURCH, CANTERBURY, NEW ZEALAND - 2021/08/21: An Air New Zealand plane sits grounded at Christchurch International Airport as some flights have been cancelled, yet in other cases extra flights have been put on to allow people to travel home from locations around NZ.
As of today, there are 21 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the total to 51 Covid-19 cases in Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday placed areas outside Auckland and Coromandel into a further lockdown until 11.59 pm on Tuesday. (Photo by Adam Bradley/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

Beswick said Customs reviewed the decision, which was also rejected.

"I had to go about obtaining another test at that point," Beswick said, noting a PCR swab cost AU$145 (NZ$160).

Beswick said the situation was frustrating and stressful.

He said while he didn't have to change his flights, his business ventures were disrupted.

"I was over there to work and, sadly… we had meetings that I had to abandon to go and get a second test done - all the while waiting to see if they were going to approve the first test, which I thought with one minute difference they would have done," said Beswick.

"It's just so disruptive - it's on your mind the whole time."

Customs has been contacted for a response to Beswick's case.

Responding to Newshub's report on the travel frustrations last week, a Customs spokesperson acknowledged the process had been "challenging" for some travellers.

"We monitor feedback and continue to make improvements to the system based on user feedback," the spokesperson said. "All feedback is taken into consideration and helps us to build a better and more user-friendly system.

"The system allows risks to be managed effectively and provides a platform to manage future risks such as new COVID-19 variants, future pandemics or new biosecurity risks."