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Finally home: Tom Hardes is back in New Zealand after four months stuck in Australia

By PHILIP CHANDLER and CASS MARRETT

After four months stuck in Western Australia, a terminally-ill Queenstown chef’s about to complete his MIQ stay and return home.

Tom Hardes, who’s had brain and spinal cancer for five years, has battled to get into the country despite a letter from his oncologist specifying he needed urgent medical attention.

Having landed in New Zealand on Tuesday last week, he’ll complete his stay in an Auckland MIQ facility tomorrow and plans to return to Queenstown, attend several medical appointments and ‘‘hopefully’’ return to work at Flame restaurant.

When Hardes left Queenstown in winter last year for warmer weather due to his health, he intended to be away for three months and took enough medication for that time.

But when he became stranded he began to run out of chemo and struggled to get methodone prescribed to manage his pain.

Hardes had difficulty booking an MIQ spot and had one emergency allocation application declined because MIQ’s emergency allocation team was ‘‘not satisfied’’ Hardes had ‘‘time-critical scheduled medical treatment which is unavailable and inaccessible’’ in his then location.

Hardes managed to book a flight when the government announced there would be no managed isolation requirement for Kiwis returning from Oz, but that flight was cancelled at the beginning of January after border-related Omicron cases increased and government suspended MIQ room releases.

Instrumental in the effort to get Hardes home is his friend and former boss, Dawn Sherbrooke.

She helped Hardes apply for another MIQ emergency allocation and rebook flights which she says was a process ‘‘fraught with stress’’.

‘‘He’s like my family now … I had to help him, I had no choice.

‘‘I’ve known him for a long time and when my husband died, he had my back 100% … so you know, you pay it back.’’

Their reunion will be delayed because Sherbrooke flew to Ireland yesterday, but she’s happy he’s coming home.

‘‘I’m so relieved because it was actually killing me knowing that he really was desperate to come home.

‘‘He’s quite a soldier you know, he never feels sorry for himself, he’s smiled through all the pain … he’s quite an incredible person.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz