Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Pasifika people are champing at the bit to travel overseas after the government announced changes to border restrictions in February.
Changes include entry into Australia without a travel exemption and removing MIQ and self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers from overseas to New Zealand.
Once the changes were set in motion, Sophie Tuuga, a 20-year-old student from Auckland, made a week-long trip to visit family in Brisbane.
“I wasn’t scared that I couldn’t get a room in MIQ, and I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a room in MIQ,” she says.
Tuuga says that while it was great to see her family again, she noticed differences in how Australians approach Covid-19.
“The mask mandate looks like it was thrown out the window, and social distancing isn’t as encouraged as New Zealand.
“I didn’t necessarily feel safe because, in Australia, many of their citizens treated Covid-19 like the flu.”
Cecilia Leiataua, a credit analyst for a bank in Auckland, regularly travelled overseas before the pandemic struck two years ago.
As border restrictions ease, she will join a slew of Kiwis heading across the ditch this year, searching for permanency.
“I do intend on living there long term. I’m hoping to find a job before I go over and then look for a place there,” she says.
The annual inflation rate has reached a three-decade high, driven by increased housing and petrol prices.
This has made day-to-day living a challenge for many New Zealanders.
“I think that with the housing and the shocking economy, it’s definitely made me think about my future with my daughter here in New Zealand,” Leiataua says.
“I’m not in a state to be able to afford rent, so for me personally, the best move was to move to Australia.”
Ally Tupuola, a crown prosecutor in Whangarei, moved to New Zealand from Samoa in 2006 but would make regular trips home to see her parents.
Covid-19 has halted those visits, and she has not seen her parents since 2020.
“For me, that’s a long time,” she says.
“There’s a part of me each day that worries about that phone call that may come in, about some unbearable news and the inability to travel or see them if something happens.”
Samoa’s fears of another devastating outbreak following the 2019 measles epidemic have kept its borders firmly shut to overseas travellers for the past two years.
“For a small island country like Samoa, I have nothing but respect for its leaders and the decisions they’ve had to make.”
Last month, Samoa recorded its first community case, prompting a nationwide lockdown. Numbers have since escalated to more than 3000, and three people have succumbed to the virus.
In the meantime, Tupuola is waiting for New Zealand to initiate the final stages of its 5-step border plan, concluding in October, which will allow her to travel freely between the two countries.
“The minute they eliminate the quarantine periods, I’ll be asking the boss for leave later in the year, then hopping on that plane!”