Emergency Management Otago
30 April 2020
Emergency Management Otago has been joined by 120 volunteers from public and private sector organisations across Otago and Southland to reach out to around 4300 foreign nationals and their families, who have sought welfare assistance due to the impacts of COVID-19.
While many have already received help with day to day necessities from Civil Defence and Emergency Management in Queenstown, the purpose of the calls is to gain a more complete picture of welfare needs, current employment status, whether they intend to stay in New Zealand or return to their home country, and whether they require assistance contacting their own government.
Volunteers making calls have come from councils across Otago, Emergency Management Otago, Emergency Management Southland, the Department of Conversation and tourism operator Wayfare.
“The first calls went out on Friday afternoon and continued over Anzac weekend and into this week,” said Otago Civil Defence Controller Richard Saunders.
“We have managed to speak with over 1600 foreign nationals to date which has allowed us to start to build a better picture of the ongoing welfare situation in Queenstown.”
From the information collected so far, Mr Saunders said the majority of people wished to stay in New Zealand if possible and over 60% have indicated they still have employment. 15% indicated they intended on going home but most had not registered for a repatriation flight or made contact with a travel agent.
Mr Saunders said that information collected would be shared with Queenstown Lakes District Council as well as a number of central government agencies such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Immigration New Zealand and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
In cases where the international visitor needed help to connect with their own government to seek support or repatriation flights, information may also be shared with embassies or consulates.
“One of the first things we can do is put those wishing to return home in touch with their own government to help them arrange a flight back to their home country,” said Mr Saunders.
Mr Saunders said calls would be completed this week but work to connect overseas citizens with the available support would be ongoing.