Currently set to wrap up at the end of this month, the Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri programme for temporary visa-holders in hardship has now dealt with 1,300 applicants in the Otago area and provided $391,000 dollars of support, with more applications received every day.
Launched on July 1, Visitor Care is part of the government’s Assistance for Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 programme and is a joint venture between New Zealand Red Cross and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). DIA handles requests for accommodation and utility support, whilst the Red Cross provides vouchers for food, warm clothing and bedding to those unable to meet their basic needs or to return to their home country.
Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri spokesperson Shane Chisholm said that, following initial concerns that many travellers in the Queenstown-Wānaka didn’t know they could access support, awareness had certainly increased.
“We’re quietly confident that we’re doing everything we can to get the word out, and we’re still seeing applications come in every day,” he said. Nationally, an average of 980 applications were being received each week, of which 13 per cent were from Otago - and mainly the Queenstown-Wānaka area.
Chisholm thanked the people of Wānaka for their “fantastic” support of stranded visitors in the area, pointing to local community organisations such as Food for Love and the Wānaka Community Hub, who have supported people in need with information, coffee mornings and other community-led events, and the Aspiring Motel, which housed some of the Visitor Care clients living in their vans over the winter. A member of staff at the motel confirmed they had housed four visitors who had nowhere to live for around a month each.
Discussions with the government over a possible extension of the programme beyond September 30 were currently ongoing.
Read edition 992 of the Wānaka Sun here.