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Flying through the cracks?

The Buzz

BayBuzz01 September 2020

BayBuzz has learned that, since Saturday, three private planes, including two jet aircraft, have landed at HB Airport, each one either originating/landing in mainland Australia (Brisbane and Gold Coast – Coolangatta airport) and/or touching down at Norfolk Island.

These flights and their paths can all be documented via the online air traffic tracking service, Flightradar24. Seems to have been a busy three days.

As we are all aware, overseas arrivals continue to represent the great risk to New Zealanders of coronavirus.

Consequently, it would be reassuring to know what the protocol is at HB Airport for the medical processing and quarantining of any crew and passengers arriving at the airport from overseas. Actual practice vs rules on websites.

BayBuzz has spent several hours attempting to get a clear picture from various official parties as to what this protocol is and how it is actually implemented here locally.

And we have to say: it’s a murky picture in a situation that should be ultra-transparent.

Starting with HB Airport itself … they simply provide a landing field, not similar to McLean Park providing a rugby or cricket field. How the ‘game’ is played and referee’d on the field is someone else’s responsibility.

NZ Customs, when queried about the first two flights, responded that they were aware of them and that both carried crews only, no passengers. They demurred to health officials as to how those individuals might have been processed.

HBDHB, when queried, addressed one of the flights as follows:

“Air crew arriving into Hawke’s Bay airport on a private plane have to follow the same protocol in Hawke’s Bay as  the rest of the country.

“In relation to this particular event the crew were health screened on arrival, temperature checked and had a COVID swab. All tests returned a negative result.

This flight was deemed as a very low risk as there was no other airport layover and the flight origin was Norfolk Island it had a very low risk for COVID.”

At that point, it wasn’t clear which of the two flights they were referring to. And, we should note, both flights – one starting and returning to Napier, the other originating on the Gold Coast – managed to be on Norfolk Island at exactly the same time, taking off for HB Airport within five minutes of each other.

HBDHB subsequently clarified that both planes were crews-only and both were tested. Here is the actual exchange:

BayBuzz: There were two arrivals, not one. One originated in Gold Coast, and simply stopped over in Norfolk Island.One was a new plane, no passengers, ordered by Skyline Aviation. The other, a jet, not yet identifed.

Can you assure us that crews — and any passengers on the jet — were checked? By whom?

HBDHB: Only flight crew. This went through a process that has to make sure the Medical Officer of Health is satisfied that they pose no threat to anyone and follow the MoH guidelines.

BayBuzz: Are you confirming that HBDHB is satisfied that it would be informed of any such arrivals?

HBDHB: Yes

BayBuzz: If passengers arrived, how would their quarantine be organised and monitored?

HBDHB: Passengers can’t arrive into NZ like this . They would have to fly to Auckland and then go through the quarantine facility process like everyone else.

Sounds OK until that last response.

One of the first two planes indeed originated from the Gold Coast and a third plane (a jet) flew to Brisbane and back. Its ‘cargo’ is unclear. When asked about this third plane, HBDHB responded:

“Air ambulances operate domestically and internationally and also have aircraft coming in for maintenance in Napier. There is no issue here regarding passengers coming into Napier. The service strictly follows all the Ministry of Health guidelines.

So BayBuzz remains puzzled, if not troubled, by the protocols at play here.

We are awaiting confirmation from Customs as to whether passengers, or crews only, can legitimately arrive directly from overseas at HB Airport. Insiders say it has not been unknown for individuals not on passenger manifests to arrive.

In 2019 HB Airport had 90 private jet movements, averaging 7.5 per month. We’ve just had 2 in 2 days.

And the fact is, planes can and do land at HB Airport ‘after hours’, when there are no MPI, Customs or DHB personnel on location.

In the interest of transparency, we believe it is incumbent upon the HBDHB, as the party responsible for protecting Hawke’s Bay residents from coronavirus, to issue a statement clearly setting forth the process in place for ensuring that overseas arrivals at HB Airport are properly met, tested and quarantined.

Their statement should answer at least these questions:

  1. Who is responsible for tracking overseas private plane arrivals at HB Airport and alerting HBDHB to such arrivals?
  2. How does HBDHB respond to such alerts (e.g., is there a mobile testing team that shows up to ‘welcome’ these guests, be they crew and/or passengers; if only crews can arrive directly from overseas, are they always tested)?
  3. What provisions are made for quarantining such individuals and monitoring their compliance?

BayBuzz’s radar is on. Stay tuned.

 

BayBuzz01 September 2020

11 responses to “Flying through the cracks?”

  1. Jenni foster says:

    Good lord….this could be happening all through the country.

  2. Robina Harper says:

    I am appalled. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!!! This is not right…and I’m not convinced in any way that the people and their passengers have come into New Zealand legally….
    Someone has to put a stop to this right now! I am not wearing a mask and adhering to the rules here to have people flying in from Australia just because they weren’t happy with how things were being dealt with in there!!

  3. BayBuzz says:

    At present, we’re not suggesting that anything improper is occurring. However, we would like to see precautionary processes clearly presented in detail and explicit public assurances from appropriate Customs and Health officials that they are being enforced.

  4. George Harper says:

    It all seems a bit casual and nod is as good as a wink. A distinct lack of transparency putting us all at risk.

  5. Tim Setchfield-Smith says:

    What goes on in vagueness, stays in vagueness.

  6. Jon sayers says:

    Absolutely appalling mind you if you can afford a private jet you are also entitled to certain privileges if you know wot I mean wink wink !!

  7. Greg Quinn says:

    Bay Buzz you should be ashamed of you shoddy journalism, this article is scaremongering based on the fact that whoever wrote this tat was unable to research the topic thoroughly. There were no passengers on these flights, and the regulations for international aircrew which are clearly defined on the following website: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-information-specific-audiences/covid-19-resources-border-sector/covid-19-aviation-sector
    This sort of nonsense only drives conspiracy into the community and affects the businesses that doing there upmost to serve the country the best they can in these uncharted times. I have to add I’m not part of any business pointed towards in the article but am part of the aviation community, all of whom are strictly following the rules to stay safe playing their role in the team of 5 million.
    Shame on you!

    • BayBuzz says:

      We can assure you that others in the “aviation community” were talked to on the subject. Our objective was to put private plane arrivals at HB Airport — which indeed happen unannounced — in the spotlight. And we have accomplished just that. People would have plenty of reason to be concerned about a lackadaisical approach … and it should be abundantly clear that having some regs on a website doesn’t guarantee anything whatsoever. You have been following the Auckland quarantine efforts we presume.

  8. Kevin English says:

    Your a pack of wankers causing nothing but scaremongering without knowing the facts typical shit journalism.

  9. Mike Harris says:

    This certainly isnt good enough (HBDHB) better be more vigilant……seems to much nod nod wink wink,
    HB’s Health is Priority

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