Measures to safely see international students return to Wellington are being investigated and include the possibility of using chartered aircraft to streamline the process.
The international study sector is valuable to the local economy. In 2017, Wellington’s 8504 international students spent $390 million on tuition and living costs and $20 million on student tourism in Wellington during 2017/18, supporting 3750 jobs.
An additional $40 million was generated by friends and relatives visiting students in Wellington, supporting a further 540 jobs.
WellingtonNZ General Manager David Perks says border controls introduced by the Government during the Covid-crisis turned off the valve on the international student pipeline. It needs to be turned on again soon so the sector can rebuild.
"The economic importance of international students is apparent, but they also bring important diversity to our learning environments by enriching the social and cultural life both within educational institutes and Wellington in general.
"When you add in the fact that many international students who graduate in Wellington choose to live and work here, it’s plain to see the importance of getting all our students back as they bring vibrancy and prosperity to the heart of Wellington."
Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington Professor Grant Guilford says getting international students to Wellington for the start of the second trimester in July would be hugely beneficial for the recruitment, retention and academic progress of the students.
"The University, alongside other educational institutions, is working with all the appropriate health and immigration authorities to define the quarantine process required to safely bring students into Wellington.
"We are investigating the possibility of chartering an aircraft to make the experience as simple as possible for students. Whether this idea gets lift-off depends on a range of factors.
"But having international students live and study in Wellington is important not just to the university but also to the students themselves who receive a world class education coupled with the experience of life in one of the greatest and safest capital cities in the world."
Whitireia and WelTec Chief Executive Mark Oldershaw says the return of international students was an integral part of the diversity and culture of both institutes and crucial to the sustainability of the sector.
"New Zealand is one of the top picks for international students when choosing where to study. And increasingly so is Wellington. We want to continue to build on the strong foundation we have, further strengthen our international connections while of course, ensuring we manage the health risks for New Zealanders."
Mr Oldershaw said Whitireia and WelTec were planning how to bring international students into the country safely. This includes accommodation during the compulsory quarantine period, and health and wellbeing services for students to help them manage the lockdown in a new country.
Wellington Airport Chief Executive Steve Sanderson says Wellington Airport has been collaborating with Government Ministries, Boarder Agencies, airlines and other airports to safely facilitate international arrivals.
"Currently international arrivals are subject to public health requirements and quarantine processes to ensure any Covid-19 risks are well managed."