New Zealand Red Cross has assisted 1563 international visitors stranded in the Bay of Plenty through its Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri programme.
The programme was collaboratively developed by the New Zealand Red Cross and the Department of Internal Affairs to assist foreign nationals who are experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19.
“Through our work on the ground, we know that there are significant and urgent humanitarian needs being faced by people on temporary visas in our communities,” saus Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri project lead Rachel O’Connor.
To date, the programme has delivered more than 1304 requests for food, 761 for accommodation, 384 for clothing and 136 for bedding in the Bay of Plenty.
Most people supported in the Bay of Plenty are on work visas and from Argentina. The region had the third highest number of foreign nationals receiving assistance from the organisation in New Zealand.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell applauded the programme and the work of the New Zealand Red Cross.
“While our manuhiri, our visitors, are in our region, we have a duty of care to look after them. Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri is filling a devastating gap created by the impacts of COVID-19,” he says.
Data provided by Statistics New Zealand and extrapolated by Tourism Bay of Plenty estimates that there are between approximately 3500 and 5500 international visitors currently still residing in the Coastal Bay of Plenty.
“The Coastal Bay of Plenty has always welcomed a significant number of international visitors, especially those that choose to backpack and work in seasonal jobs such as our thriving Kiwifruit industry,” says Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne.
“We’re asking locals to look out for those far from home who need help. This programme provides the basics that we would all hope for if we were in a tough situation while travelling overseas,” says Kristin.
Locals and business owners who know of foreign nationals in the Bay of Plenty that are experiencing hardship are asked to inform them of the assistance available through this programme. Those eligible for assistance include people in New Zealand on temporary visas, including visitor visas, work visas and student visas, who have exhausted all other options to meet their basic needs or return home.
“Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri is just another example of Kiwis doing great things to help others during times of need. Aotearoa New Zealand is the land of manaakitanga, of hospitality,” says Kristin.
“Tourism contributed more than a billion dollars to the Coastal Bay of Plenty’s economy prior to the impacts of COVID-19. Our manuhiri created jobs and kept the economy moving. We need to look after those left in our care so that they come back when Aotearoa can safely open her borders once more."
The Government recently announced that the programme has been extended until November 30, which is an extra two months than what was originally planned. The decision to extend was made on the basis that there are still significant urgent and humanitarian needs being faced by people on temporary visas in New Zealand.
“We are pleased that the Government has decided to extend Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri. We are proud to be able to continue supporting those people,” says Rachel.
The programme offers payments directly to third-parties, such as landlords, or power companies, and excludes cash payments. The in-kind assistance includes accommodation, utilities, travel costs, food and medication. The Department of Internal Affairs oversees the application process and financial management on behalf of the New Zealand Red Cross’ outreach teams.