New Zealanders forced to say goodbye to loved ones via Zoom

French horn player Michael Dixon is one of the New Zealanders living in Australia who have missed the funerals of their parents and other family events because of travel restrictions between the countries.

French horn player Michael Dixon at the City Recital Hall in Sydney.Credit:Milen Boubbov

Dr Dixon was disappointed he could not attend his father’s funeral on January 2 and his mother’s funeral which came unexpectedly on January 13.

New Zealand makes all travellers, including those from Australia, undertake two weeks’ mandatory quarantine. Special travel arrangements allowing people from New Zealand to travel to Australia without quarantine have been suspended for three more days from Thursday after three cases of a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland.

Australian health authorities are now trying to track down nine people who travelled from New Zealand to Australia and may be at risk of having the new strain.

Dr Dixon, who lives in Bundeena, south of Sydney, has played with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

The musician said he understood the need for the travel restrictions and quarantine arrangements.

“I’m generally in favour of what both governments have done,” he said. “I think they have handled the situation very well. I have no issue with them. I just had to adapt. If you can’t go home you do what you have to.”

For Dr Dixon that meant uploading his eulogies online so they could be streamed via Zoom as part of the funeral services.

“We could watch the live stream. I couldn’t interact with it so my sister and I uploaded a eulogy so the people in Auckland could hear what we wanted to say,” he said.

Mark Wilkinson during a Christmas family celebration in New Zealand.

“That level of interaction was comforting. So I didn't miss being there as much as I might of.”

But he missed being with his three other siblings who live in New Zealand.

Dr Dixon said he looked into the possibility of travelling to New Zealand when he first found out his father was dying. But the two-week quarantine period, paperwork and $3000 cost made it too difficult to manage quickly enough.

Mark Wilkinson, who moved from New Zealand to Brisbane six years ago, missed seeing his family for Christmas in Christchurch before his grandmother passed away on Sunday.

“I normally go home every two years for Christmas and this would have been my two years,” he said.

“My grandmother was 91 and she had a good innings, but I was never able to get home to see her that one last time. The last time I saw her was two and a half years ago.

“It is a frustration because I can’t get home to be there for my mum and be the support and say my goodbyes and go to the funeral.”

Another New Zealander Jaime, who did not want her surname published, has been living in Sydney for six years and is sad to have missed her father’s funeral in November. She also wanted to see her sister’s baby girl who was born in October.

The two-week quarantine with her two young children was too difficult to manage after getting news about her father three weeks before he died.

“I was able to Facetime him to say goodbye,” she said.

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