Tourist-visa holders are marooned on Waiheke following lockdown, sparking concerns of a welfare crisis. Pictured, from left, Nigel Cooper, Amelia Lawley and Kali Silva. Photos Liza Hamilton

Dumpster diving and emergency food parcels have become a necessity for some stranded holiday-visa holders living on Waiheke with no clear path ahead following lockdown.

Some are sleeping in cars and caravans and, as we get further into winter, there are concerns these living conditions will bring sickness and ill health.

Caught here when international travel ground to a halt with the Covid-19 pandemic, most can’t work because of visa restrictions, but they can’t leave either.

Amelia Lawley from Waiheke Budgeting Services says it is “almost a refugee situation” and more needs to be done to help. She has been coordinating emergency food parcels for the South American community on the island, hand-delivering more than 200 so far.

“We were happy to take the tourist dollars and the tax dollars [from holiday and working visa holders],” she told Gulf News. “The government should do something. I would like to see material support and recognition.

“I think the more we communicate about this, the more we put the story out there, the better. They are being a little bit ignored and I don’t think that’s right. This is an issue that needs to be spoken about.”

One of those food parcel recipients is Kali Silva from Chile, who has been staying at The Pods in Surfdale with her Dutch husband Joran Brouwer. They have helped out around the property in return for accommodation.

The pair can’t return to Holland or Kali’s native Chile, which is now at the epicentre of Covid-19.

Kali says they were booked to fly to Denmark in March, but borders shut down due to the pandemic and their flights were cancelled. 

She praised Nigel and Jane Cooper who own The Pods, saying they have acted like “grandparents” – the Coopers even shared their wage subsidy with some South American tourists staying onsite, who didn’t have enough money for food. • Liza Hamilton

Full story in this week’s Gulf New’s… Out Now!!!

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