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International travel update

International travel update

22 February 2021

Special update from:
Sport NZ, High Performance Sport NZ, Paralympics NZ and the NZ Olympic Committee.

Work is continuing across Government to understand and resolve the complex issues related to international travel specifically for sport, including competition attendance and athlete involvement.

This update has been prepared by Sport NZ, High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ), Paralympics NZ (PNZ) and the NZ Olympic Committee (NZOC). It features the latest information on:

  • MIQ allocation for athletes
  • Border exemptions
  • Vaccinations
  • International event hosting

COVID-19 remains widespread in many countries and the official advice, that New Zealanders should not travel internationally, remains unchanged. Despite the international pandemic, professional and high-performance athletes and teams have a number of motivations for travelling overseas to train or compete in international competitions.

Where athletes and teams do not need to travel, our recommendation is that they stay in New Zealand and prepare in a safe environment until they travel to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sport NZ has prepared guidelines to assist National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to make effective decisions about whether their athletes should travel internationally and, if they do travel, to help them plan this travel. The guidelines can be accessed here.

Managed Isolation
There is significant and sustained demand for MIQ places. In addition to enabling the general return of New Zealanders from overseas, the Government is managing entry demand for a range of priority areas across the economy and society.

As previously communicated, the priority sporting events for border entry have been signalled as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and Rugby World Cup 2021 (RWC 2021).

Despite this priority, the high volume and complexity of MIQ related requests generated by these events over the next six months creates a very challenging environment alongside the existing demand from other New Zealanders.

Sport NZ, HPSNZ, NZOC, PNZ and relevant NSOs continue to work collaboratively on international travel requirements related to these three priority events.

We are also continuing to work with the relevant border agencies to determine the best solution for MIQ arrangements in the lead up, during and after the priority events to support athletes and teams to return to New Zealand. Whilst this is being agreed the interim process is outlined below.

If you have international travel requirements in April and May 2021 then you need to be proactively seeking MIQ spots through the standard public allocation system. Additional places within MIQ for April and May are being released over the next few days.

Acknowledging the very minimal availability of MIQ spots, HPSNZ, NZOC and PNZ will continue to refine the essential travel requirements in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games noting the current uncertainly around qualification events. This will include seeking Government prioritisation of MIQ spots as below:

  1. Those that are on track to meet their relevant NSO nomination criteria, NZOC and PNZ selection standards* and need to travel to qualify Games quota spots at International Federation competitions will be prioritised for support to access MIQ spaces.  
  2. Some qualified medal-capable athletes (NB: It is very unlikely that the MIQ system will have capacity to accommodate teams) may have a strong justification for requiring international competition prior to the Games.  The associated MIQ requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

* Consideration for Para athletes seeking classification to meet eligibility requirements will also be a priority.

Several athletes and teams have already met the NSO nomination and NZOC/PNZ selection standard and have qualification quotas but are seeking to travel for pre-games competition or preparation. Those that fit into this category will not be prioritised for support to access MIQ spaces.

Only essential travel (e.g. needing to qualify for the Games) is likely to be able to be prioritised due to the limitations in MIQ capacity. Given MIQ demand, there is also no guarantee that requested MIQ spaces will be able to be secured or that any training provisions within MIQ will be available.

If you have athletes or teams who need to travel to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 or Beijing 2022 Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games and you are having difficulty accessing MIQ places in April and May through the MIQ website then please contact us on Sport NZ will work with HPSNZ, NZOC and PNZ to prioritise any requests made.

Any MIQ costs relating to Options A or B above are expected to be self-funded.

The Government is facing a number of competing priorities to distribute the vaccine and we acknowledge the needs of vulnerable New Zealanders, as well as those managing the border and frontline healthcare workers.

We are also discussing the ability to secure vaccines for athletes who will be attending the Tokyo 2020 Olympic/Paralympic Games. The first step in this process is understanding the timeline for athlete travel and vaccination which can then be discussed with the Ministry of Health to determine what might be possible.   

The Sport NZ, HPSNZ, NZOC and PNZ project team will contact NSO’s if they need more information to support this process.

Planning for Health and Safety
For those NSO’s who have athletes or teams who choose to travel, Sport NZ are exploring ways in which we can best support you with the development of a comprehensive health and safety plan and how to navigate the risks associated with international travel. More information will follow shortly.

Hosting of major events to enable qualification and preparation for Games
We continue to receive requests for the hosting of International Events. Due to the extremely limited MIQ capacity, there is currently no capacity to support the hosting of new International events.

Criteria for seeking border exemptions – visiting teams and athletes
Separate to the work underway on the Olympic and Paralympic campaigns and Rugby World Cup, Sport NZ have established a process for considering requests from sports who wish to bring overseas athletes or teams to New Zealand for events that are not related to the Olympics/Paralympics and Rugby World Cup.

Sport NZ have developed a set of criteria that will be used to assess proposals for exemptions to immigration settings to determine whether they would be recommended for approval. If a proposal meets these criteria then we will recommend that the proposal be considered by senior officials and Ministers alongside other proposals for exemptions from across the New Zealand economy (for example, from the business, education and culture sectors). This will not guarantee that these applications will be approved. To be supported by Sport NZ, proposals must demonstrate a financial benefit of more than $2.5 million to the New Zealand economy or the visit of an athlete or team must relate to a ‘significant’ sporting event.

The current MIQ constraints are making it difficult to get exemptions granted for non-New Zealanders to visit New Zealand, particularly if the proposal involves significant numbers of people.  

The full criteria can be found here

Sport NZ and HPSNZ Project Leads will be available to provide a verbal update and answer any queries at the Sport NZ CEO Partner call on Tuesday 23 February.
Raelene Castle, CE Sport NZ
Michael Scott, CE High Performance Sport NZ
Fiona Allan, CE Paralympics NZ
Kereyn Smith, CEO NZ Olympic Committee

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