New Zealand family charters plane for new life in Australia after stranded weeks in Aotearoa


The closing of the trans-Tasman bubble and the lockdown of New Zealand has left Kiwis and Australians stranded on either side of the Tasman for weeks as flights are blocked or canceled and it has pushed some to extreme measures .

Tim Knowlman with husband Poroutu and daughter Te Awa. They booked a charter flight across the Tasman.
Photo: RNZ / Tim Knowlman

After weeks of stress, expense, canceled flights and Covid-19 testing, Tim Knowlman, her husband Poroutu and their 13-month-old daughter have booked a charter plane to take them across the Tasman and are now in managed isolation in Brisbane .

Their move to Aussie had been planned for months and the young family were days away from moving when the lockdown hit, leaving them out of work, home and theft with all their belongings already on their way to Brisbane.

The couple joined a Facebook page dedicated to Australians and the Kiwis trapped on either side of the Tasman which numbered more than 8,000 people, Knowlman said.

It was there that they saw a message from another Kiwi who was charting a flight to Brisbane and looking for other interested parties.

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“Due to the delays, we were unable to travel with this particular man, but he gave us the details of the Auckland airport-based charter company,” Knowlman said.

The charter company had been “very, very busy … bringing Australians and Kiwis who live in Australia back to Australia non-stop.”

Tim and Poroutu received a quote from the charter company, then posted their own post on the Facebook group to see if any other trapped Kiwis or Australians wanted to join the flight and share the cost.

More than a dozen responded and wanted to join, Knowlman said.

Tim Knowlman with husband Poroutu and daughter Te Awa.

Tim, Poroutu and Te Awa.
Photo: RNZ / Tim Knowlman

“The process itself was really, really easy. The company (charterer) made it very, very easy. They said they would organize all of our MIQ bookings in Australia when we arrived and we actually found the process with the charter company incredibly easy.

“Once we decided to do it, we swallowed our pride and paid the huge sum of money.”

“The whole process with flights canceled, tests canceled and chartering a plane. I would say the total will probably be close to NZ $ 40,000.”

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The past few weeks have been extremely stressful for Knowlman’s family and it wasn’t until the plane took off that he was led to believe it was true, he said.

“I’ve been just this eternal pessimist for a few weeks because I never thought it would happen, and even until we got on that plane. I just thought there was going to be something going on hold. our trip and it wasn’t until we took off that I realized everything was going to go as planned. “

It was not the New Zealand government that blocked their passage to Australia, Knowlman.

“During the lockdown, we discovered as we did more research that the problem was a state (Australian) government issue as well as a federal government issue.”

“Initially, the Queensland government had closed all international and domestic arrivals in Queensland for a while, but later we found out that this was an issue with international arrival caps in Australia, which is really, really minimal, there’s something like 40,000 Australians overseas trying to get back to Australia.

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“We had our house packed, all of our things had been packed and shipped and arrived in Australia before us, so we were only living on suitcases. We lived in a relative’s spare bedroom for several weeks, then in a Airbnb for several weeks so we felt like a plastic bag, floating in the breeze. “

Their family members still had not been able to meet their daughter Te Awa, who was born during New Zealand’s lockdown in 2020 and Knowlman said there were a large number of people in the same situation as her family.

“We are incredibly lucky to have been able and to have the means to do what we have done. There are hundreds, if not thousands of others who are desperate to return. Kiwis, who normally live in Australia and desperation and the exasperation you see on the Facebook page everyday is really sad.

“It’s a really, really horrible situation for a lot, a lot of people, so we certainly feel incredibly lucky and very lucky to have made it here.”