Yesterday I had a moment when I almost screamed; what is this blimming pandemic doing to us? What kind of people are we becoming?
What set me off was a story on the front page of the NZ Herald about a British couple who had sold their home, bought a 17m yacht and in January 2019 set sail around the world on an adventure they hoped would make everlasting memories for their children.
On August 9th this year, the Jarman’s son Eddie died in an accident off Moorea Island near Tahiti. He was struck by a jetboat while checking the anchor - and killed.
They managed to repatriate Eddie’s body to the UK, and flew back to Sussex to bury their child in August. Then they returned with their daughter, to their yacht to navigate the cyclone season. Then they wanted to sell their home, their yacht, and head back to the UK.
According to the Jarmans, it’s almost impossible to sell their yacht in French Polynesia, but they’d been told there was a market here in Auckland.
They’ve gone through the proper process and applied for a humanitarian exemption to enter New Zealand – unlike the recent Germans who just sailed on in. And I get the feeling that if their time at sea wasn’t long enough to satisfy our quarantine protocols they would have entered MIQ here.
Yesterday, it was reported the Ministry of Health had turned down their application. They did not meet the high threshold of humanitarian exemption to allow them to enter New Zealand. Now they will need to find shelter in French Polynesia, and wait until New Zealand opens it borders.
I don’t want to get stuck in the complexity and political to-and-fro of our border security approach being right, wrong, or in need of improvement.
But I do want to get stuck into the simple fact that an exemption wasn’t granted.
What harm would be done? Set a precedent? How many requests has the government received such as this one?
The Jarman’s have been through the worst thing a family can go through. They lost a son, a brother. Their lives will never be the same again. Ask anyone who has lost a child, calling them heartbroken doesn’t even being to sum up what they are dealing with.
But an exemption wasn’t granted.
The government has already turned its back on the boaties of the Pacific who would normally come to New Zealand to shelter from the dangerous cyclone season.
The government has not turned its back on 13 superyachts that have been granted exemption to dock in New Zealand on the condition they support our local marine industry.
I don’t have a problem with the super-yachts getting in, but where’s the balance between our nation’s financial self-interest and doing the right thing by others.
I don’t mind words like compassion and kindness are used in a whole lot of talk about issues in New Zealand – I just wish I saw more examples of it.
Helping the Jarmans’ does not require compromising our border security in any way. It requires us caring enough to help and make an extra effort.
As when we get to the close of this COVID period in our lives, we’ll have two questions to answer – how well did we look after ourselves, and how well did we look after others.
On the second question – the jury’s out.