Time is running out for more than 300 yachts scattered in the South Pacific who have been refused entry to New Zealand to seek refuge from the cyclone season.
The Ocean Cruising Club has been lobbying the New Zealand government since April, but under Covid-19 restrictions, cyclone refuge is not considered a reason for border exemption.
Cruising Club commodore, Guy Chester, has been fighting to get the hundreds of people a safe place to spend the season.
He said in June, they were told there would be a border exemption process for humanitarian and compelling reasons.
But last week they discovered cyclone refuge was not included.
Chester said they felt betrayed by the New Zealand government.
The club had been working with the New Zealand health processes, talking to officers, said Chester.
“We’ve now got the situation where we have just been told that cyclone refuge is not a compelling reason and exemptions will not be granted, in which case, it’s now vital.”
The cyclone season starts on November 1, but with most boats between two to six weeks away from somewhere safe, it had now reached crisis point, he said.
“We’ve run out of time,” he said. “I’m distressed, I’ve been working on behalf of all the yachts and I’m feeling a huge responsibility for people’s safety, and we haven’t got a solution.
“We have families with young kids, and we have people panicking that they are going to be stuck in a cyclone prone zone. People just don’t know what to do.”
Chester said the yachties understand New Zealand is trying to protect itself from the virus.
But he added: “None of this was by choice, when these people set out (to cruise in the Pacific), they didn’t know there was going to be a global pandemic.”