Foreign Minister Winston Peters: “It's a logistical nightmare relocating thousands of travellers”

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says getting New Zealanders back home and other travellers out of the country is "a nightmare for our embassies, consuls, and staff around the world".

Speaking to NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking, the Foreign Minister said that he gave a clear message to people travelling overseas that they needed to make plans to return home immediately.

“I made it very clear to a lot of people that if you’re offshore you better get home very fast. Your options were closing down real fast."

“It’s as though that despite modern technology and all the news utilities we have got, some people are just not listening," the Minister added.

Mr Peters also noted the frustrations involved repatriating Kiwis back to New Zealand.

“It’s a nightmare for our embassies and consuls and people around the world. We are organizing thousands and thousands of people only to find, at the last moment, after all the work, that the airline has shut down or the country has shut down movement.”

“It is a serious exercise in planning with so many frustrating elements to it," he added.

Despite these difficulties, the Foreign Minister noted the importance of the task.

"We’ve got to get on with it."

Minister Peters also spoke of the challenge moving foreign nationals out of the country, with a sheer number of individuals involved. When programme host Mike Hoskings asked of the exact number involved, the Foreign Minister said it was in the hundreds of thousands.

"We have 35,000 which we believe, from information shared with overseas embassies, of [tourists] registered with them. And then we know there are 100,000 thereabouts of others who are likely, because of international experience, who would want to go as well. That is a sum of in excess of 225,000."

The logistics was especially difficult, as there needed to be "flights coming in to New Zealand to take foreign nationals away in an orderly, safe way but also [to bring home] New Zealanders [from overseas] as well.”

Though the Foreign Minister highlighted that the government has had success in bringing our citizens home.

"What we have tried to do, is to support people to get on the flights, provide the finance if we have to, and to work with other countries such as Australia, and there will be other airlines and other countries as well."

"That’s how we got 27 New Zealanders out of Nepal, arriving home as we speak, who left the other day. Sometimes we have great success, but it is very, very difficult," the Foreign Minister said.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.