Grieving mum: ‘ One rule for them’
UK family stranded on their yacht refused entry into NZ after son’s tragic death, upset superyachts have been let in, Tom Dillane reports
We live on a boat that reminds us of him every day. Mum Barbara Genda on son Eddie, below
Barbara Genda and Harry Jarman sold their house, bought a yacht and set off from Britain on a round- theworld trip which they hoped would make everlasting memories for their children.
But tragedy struck when their 14- year- old son Eddie was struck by a jetboat and killed while checking the anchor.
Grief- stricken and unable to continue their journey, they say they are now stuck in French Polynesia after being denied entry to New Zealand to try to sell their boat so they can return home to West Sussex and try to restart their lives.
It was a bitter decision to swallow for the family who have watched as a stream of superyachts are given exemptions to enter New Zealand provided they spend at least $ 50,000 each in repair work at marine shops.
Genda said she believes entry into New Zealand is a door opened by money.
“I feel it’s one rule for them and one rule for us. Why have all the superyachts been approved and none of the yachts? It’s for economic reasons.”
The family set sail in their 17m yacht in January last year.
On August 9 this year, their son Eddie died in an accident off Moorea Island, near Tahiti. The tragedy is the subject of a manslaughter inquiry.
The heartbroken family now floats indefinitely in French Polynesia on the boat which every day reminds them of their lost boy.
They are trying to sell their $ 1 million yacht — the only home they have — in order to return home to the UK and buy a house.
But with cyclone season bearing down, the family was on October 2 refused an exemption to enter New Zealand’s maritime border for humanitarian reasons.
“In the whole uncertainty of our life ahead of us without Eddie, at least one certainty was we could go to New Zealand and very likely sell the boat and move on,” Genda said.
“Because of that rejection we will live in that uncertainty, and we live on a boat that reminds us of him every day.
“Every time I go out in the cockpit and look over I remember the scene, seeing my son floating in the water unconscious and probably dead by that time, being dragged by a woman who recovered him.”
The Ministry of Health’s refusal letter to the family’s border entry application said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield took into consideration the fact they had already managed to repatriate Eddie’s body to the UK.
The family flew back to Sussex to bury Eddie in August, but had to return to their yacht, September AM, with their daughter to navigate cyclone season and try to sell it.
The ministry extended their condolences to the family for their loss and said “due consideration was given to their circumstances”.
“The application did not meet the high threshold of a humanitarian exemption,” the ministry said. “For clarity, humanitarian reasons or other compelling needs would be unlikely to include situations relating solely to financial loss, or to vessels travelling primarily for pleasure or convenience.”
Genda said it was almost impossible to sell their yacht in French Polynesia.
Auckland yacht brokers 36 degrees had urged the family to make the “utmost effort” to bring September AM to New Zealand because there were prospective buyers here — but none that could fly to Tahiti to view their yacht.
The family obtained a letter of support from the British High Commission assuring the
MOH Genda and her daughter could return to the UK within days of arriving in New Zealand.
What is particularly disappointing to Genda i s the number of superyachts that have been given exemptions since the maritime border was closed on June 30.
The ministry said 13 vessels had been granted exemption to dock, eight of them under a refit and repair criteria.
The foreign vessels and crew can be exempted provided they spend at least $ 50,000 on refit and repair work at marine outfitters. In reality, the money being spent is far greater.
One 55m superyacht i s undergoing a $ 7m refit at Auckland Orams Marine Services boatyard.
The 81m AIR superyacht from Malta entered Auckland on October 7, and the 55m Senses superyacht from the US will arrive on October 15
“That i s what hurts me. It i s an economic transaction,” Genda said.
“I believe there are 20 [ superyachts] that applied, and they’re just staggering the application so they don’t turn up all at the same time. You’d change the light bulbs for $ 50,000 on superyachts. So why are they all going there [ NZ]. I tell you why — because of the America’s Cup.”
The ministry said only three exemptions for foreign vessels and crew had been for humanitarian reasons, and all because “they had New Zealand citizens on board”.
Genda said the family would soon have to sail their yacht from Tahiti for over a week to the French Polynesian island of Marquesas to be safe during the summer cyclone season.
“Hopefully next year New Zealand will open up and then we can eventually sail the boat there for a sale. But that is gutting. It is terribly, horribly stressful.
“We’re not doing this because we want to get to New Zealand and live in a country Covid- free. No, we need to put our daughter back into school [ in the UK] so she can be in a normal environment with her friends.
“We rely on the capital of the sale of the boat to be able to go back.
“We know that’s best for her, rather than being on the boat and being lonely and reminded every day of Eddie, and her lack of a brother.”
The family have launched a campaign to raise £ 100,000 to set up a charity for young musicians in memory of Eddie, who was a talented violinist.